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Do You Really Have a Big Heart?

There is an??????????????????????????????? old saying that goes, “If you’re not a liberal at 20 you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at 40 you have no brain.”

Indeed, liberals are often accredited with having a heart to help the less fortunate… mostly because it is easier to express their intentions than to systematically track the actual results of their “well-intended” activities.

Part of the problem with people who claim to have a big heart for the hurting is that they also tend to be rather myopic about their interests. Liberals choose mascots and then fixate on “helping” them to the detriment of everyone else… and, to be truthful, to the detriment of the very poor souls unfortunate enough to receive their misguided aid. Liberals choose targets and show little concern for how much injury they do to them.

Minorities, gays, the poor, criminals, the homeless, addicts, the diseased, the mentally ill, illegal immigrants, and Muslims all get singled out for their big-hearted expressions while these same people tend to prove rather indifferent to the suffering that their mascots cause others, and tend to be completely ignorant of the suffering that their supposed big-hearted activities increase among innocent bystanders and among those who become targets in the crusade to protect the mascots.

Recently, a new Christian woman, a single mother of three daughters, discovered that her landlord had dismantled the security of their tenement building to allow homeless people to live in the basement of the building where the laundry facilities reside. Many of these people are mentally ill, criminally inclined, and deranged by substances. When she went to her landlord [who does not live in the building and pays no direct consequence for exposing her tenants to potential threats] her land lord said, “I’m sorry if it upsets you, but I just have a big heart.”

Somehow, this big heart does not beat for the paying tenants who cannot send their teens to do laundry, who have their hallways infiltrated by boozed up, drug addled street people who come and go anonymously, who have suffered the traumas of stranger violence in the past and live in terror of what awaits them outside their front doors. The homeless people matter to this big hearted soul, but paying tenants don’t.

This tendency is rife even among conservatives when fixation blinds a person to the fallout of their big hearted deliverances.

A person close to me grew up in a conservative Christian home with parents who loved them deeply and strove to be active regents for Christ in the world. After a stint of having a coffee-house ministry in their church, the pastor found that he had several wayward teens who came to Christ, but had nowhere to go. They came up with a great idea. They bought a farm house with lots of bedrooms and asked this woman’s parents to move in to take care of the teens. They brought their 5 year old daughter (the woman who conveyed the story to me) and their 6 year old son. These teens needed help in a big way, no doubt, but where was the compassion for the 5 and 6 year old who were forced to share a home for years with broken, morally challenged, striving, but constantly failing, often predatorial teens? One of the teens took “a shine” to the five year old and after one bout of forced touchy feely, left her straining for all she was worth to stay clear of him as he sought for years to get her alone.

We had our own bout with this in my home when my well-meaning minister father brought home a drug addled homeless man. I am not using hyperbole here, he was truly drug addled; he lay in a near coma state for a week as the drugs flushed out of his system. I was about 14, had a 12 year old brother, a 16 year old brother and a 17 year old sister who was terrified of this man. She had every reason to be. When he finally woke up, we discovered that he was being followed around by a number of people with whom he spoke and occasionally argued… of course only he could see them. He had demoniac like episodes at times when confronted by Christian paraphernalia or the gospel message.

Myopic good heartedness is not helpful. We want to help the desperate, but we must measure the trade-offs; we must count the costs not just to ourselves but to those around us as well.

Should a father drive around with his kids picking up strangers so he can witness to them? Does not a father owe his children the same loving care that he seems so desperate to show to wandering hitchhikers?

Is not the safety of the tenants as important as the needs of homeless people? Is one really big hearted when he or she violates the interests of the one in order to feel good about helping out the other?

There are no solutions, only trade-offs. Everything we do has costs involved in it. When we don’t pay these costs directly ourselves we often ignore the fact that there are costs. In these examples the tenants pay the price for the landlord’s “generosity,” not the landlord who chose to act. The 5 year old daughter and 6 year old son paid the price for the parents’ selfless devotion to troubled teens, not the parents who chose to act. My sister paid it, not my father who chose to act.

When the painful costs of action are not our own, we often stop counting the costs… we imagine our actions for others big hearted and pristine while we wreak havoc in the lives of others, for whom we are also called by Christ to love.

It is our duty as big hearted people, however, to consider not merely our intentions when striving to help the less fortunate, but the actual results of our methods. We should be especially wary when the price for our goodness is forcibly paid by others. We might wish others to be willing to risk for our good-intensions, but that is not our choice to make.

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