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|Looking To the Wrong Source||04/11/2008|
Far too many people blame their own circumstances, the failure of their parents, the extreme poverty in which they have been born and other uncontrollable factors for their dissatisfaction. They live with a feeling that their life is unfairly difficult compared to everyone else. Consequently, they readily believe and follow any leader, whether social, political or religious, who tells them who to blame and offers misguided solutions. This victimization mentality is unhealthy and potentially dangerous.
Let me share my personal experience. As many readers already know, I am the product of rape. I was placed in foster care until I was five years old, then taken for the next ten years to live in poverty with a stepfather who couldn't read or write, and then with my biological father -- an alcoholic who had raped my mother. I moved fifteen times during that chaotic period. The majority of the homes did not sit on a normal street. One was on a dirty river in which I bathed and another was on the back side of a garbage dump. Our mail had to be delivered at other people's homes. My father was a drunk, we were poor, all my friends were fighting and I was a minority white kid in areas 90% Hispanic and black. I had a few reasons to complain.
But somehow I looked beyond my own pain and saw possibilities. I would like to say that it was because I was a Christian, but that was not always the case. I grew up in a home where God was mentioned, but the ways of God were not always respected.
The pastor and his wife who kept me for the first five years of my life certainly influenced me. I know that after I was taken away, their church family never stopped praying for me. I do believe this made a difference, but I still had choices to make.
I went to work at age twelve. I started as a sacker at a grocery store, but rapidly advanced to a stocker. Before my thirteenth birthday, I was head of the produce department. Why did I get a job? I needed some money since my family didn't have any. There were a few meager things I wanted to buy. I saw America as a place of opportunity. I didn't criticize or envy all the people who had things. I thought, "Well, somehow they got it. Maybe I can get something, too."
I had been working at the grocery store for less than two years when the store manager came up to me and said, "James, you're the best worker I've ever had. Someday you could manage a store like this."
I thought to myself, "I could own a store like this someday!"
Where did that come from? It didn't come from a father. It didn't come from school. It certainly didn't come from listening to a politician. I just knew that it was possible to go to work and do something. And that was when the wages were only 40 cents an hour!
I was forced to leave home before I could drive because of my violent, alcoholic father. I moved back in with the pastor and his wife. Once again, I got a job. I made 80 cents an hour now and I thought I was rolling!
I met Betty and fell in love with her. Guess what? We both got jobs. She didn't have any money either, but she had a stable home life. Betty and I married when we were both nineteen. By then, I had fallen in love with God, and we certainly loved each other. We decided God was going to be the center of our life. No doubt that helped everything, but we still understood the importance of work. We both had a job when we got married and our combined income was less than $6,000 a year. We worked real hard, too. We didn't buy anything we could not afford. When we didn't have a washing machine and dryer, we went to the laundromat. When we couldn't afford a television, we just talked to each other. We never resented that some people made more in a week or even a day than we made all year; we were grateful for what we had.
We determined that we would work hard and try to make good decisions. A year and two months after we married we had our first child. We decided that Betty would stay home to care for our daughter in order to live on my income, we lived in a 10 x 50 trailer. There is no shame in that -- not when you work hard, love one another, and do the best you can. We made good decisions and never expected someone else to take care of us.
Don't get me wrong: I think if you know me at all, you know that I believe in helping the helpless. As a matter of fact, I call that charity. There is a whole chapter in the Bible written about charity -- it's a chapter on love. If we don't have it, we don't have life. I believe when you see the needy and you begin to help them, there is a personal compassion connection. You don't throw money at a needy target. You extend hands of love and support with people who are devoted to those in need.
Of course, the government can enforce laws against injustice and discrimination. This is the proper role of government as protector of the innocent. Obviously, there are people physically and mentally unable to care for themselves, so government can play a role in aiding them. Citizens can work together and, along with government, create opportunity and remove obstacles. But I do not see government as a form of Robin Hood, taking from those who have rightfully earned wealth and doling it out randomly to the less fortunate. When politicians do this, whether through taxation, regulation or any other means, they are simply buying power by making promises that they cannot possibly fulfill without destroying everything of value in a free country and making the people bond servants to the whims of the state. (If you want a modern example of this destruction, study the recent history of President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.)
Financial advisor Dave Ramsey emphasizes the importance of personal responsibility by stating that your financial situation is determined by what goes on in your house, not the White House. Even though there was a lot wrong in my house as a child, I decided not to spend my life blaming everybody who was wrong. They made terrible mistakes, but I didn't have to build on those mistakes and excuse myself because of their failures. And neither does anyone else in this country.
Greed, selfishness and manipulation are wrong, but it is equally wrong to blame everybody else for the problems you face or your own failure to get moving. There are jobs. They may not be exactly what you want, but they are there. I didn't want to spend my life with a 40-cent-an-hour job, but I wanted to work. People are coming across the border continuously to take jobs that other people won't take.
Americans must stop looking to Capitol Hill for help. We must work and build good families. Betty and I did not wait on somebody else to take care of us. By the grace of God, we found a way out of the ditch. Those who look to "The Hill" in Washington rather than "the hills" in the Bible will only sink deeper into the muck of poverty and dependence. History's wisest man said, "When the blind lead the blind, they all get in the ditch."
Open your eyes and look out. There is opportunity. Don't wait for someone else to open the door. You must take the first step.
Don't miss next week. I'm going to share a love letter to Oprah, written with heartfelt concern for her and those she influences.
Author: James Robison
Word Count: 1438
About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, a Christian media ministry and mission relief organization. He and his wife, Betty, host of the television program Life Today; He has authored numerous books, including The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope and True Prosperity.
Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at jamesrobison.net . Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.