And gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:11

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Stigma, Prejudice, and Segregation: When The Public Tone Turns Ugly Against Persons With Disabilities

There it was again in the paper this morning. The headline about special education students taking away money and resources from "normal" children. Interesting that we never see these same headlines about magnet schools or "gifted and talented" children taking away resources from "normal" children.

More and more I seem to be reading stories about children with disabilities being turned away from communities of all kinds -- including the spiritual. There was a recent story of a boy with autism whose church took out a restraining order against him so he would not be able to attend church services with them. There were stories of children in hospitals and residential facilities being denied their church's sacraments. It is all terribly hurtful and disturbing.

When the public tone towards persons with disabilities becomes ugly or unfair, we must take it to the Lord at once. He will tell us the best way to handle it. He might ask us to step forward and publicly speak out, He might ask us to volunteer to help a family in our community, He might call us in a legal direction, or He may ask us to simply pray and meditate. He can, and will, use the situation for good. He always has a plan. Our job is to listen, and to say yes to what He asks.

With God we can stay in the process, even when we encounter unjust, harsh criticism. With Him we can be strong even when we feel timid. We can be courageous. We can teach. We can be still. We can continue getting the road ready for the families that are coming behind us. For isn't that part of why we are here? Jesus came to show us the way. He left us here to help bring His people along that path.

Below is a wonderful sermon by Charles Swindoll in which I think all parents of children with special needs and illnesses can find strength. Peace and love, Theresa

by Charles R. Swindoll

2 Timothy 1:7

Looking for a role model on how to handle criticism? It would be worth your while to check out the book of Nehemiah. On several occasions this great-hearted statesman was openly criticized, falsely accused, and grossly misunderstood. Each time he kept his cool . . . he rolled with the punch . . . he considered the source . . . he refused to get discouraged . . . he went to God in prayer . . . he kept building the wall (Nehemiah 2:19-20; 4:1-5).

One of the occupational hazards of being a leader is receiving criticism (not all of it constructive, by the way). In the face of that kind of heat, there's a strong temptation to "go under," "throw in the towel," "bail out." Many have faded out of leadership because of intense criticism. I firmly believe that the leader who does anything that is different or worthwhile or visionary can count on criticism.

Along this line, I appreciate the remarks made by the fiery president of a past generation, Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually try to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

To those words I add a resounding amen.

A sense of humor is of paramount importance to the leader. Many of God's servants are simply too serious! There are at least two tests we face that determine the extent of our sense of humor:

  • the ability to laugh at ourselves
  • the ability to take criticism

Believe me, no leader can continue effectively if he or she fails these tests! Equally important, of course, is the ability to sift from any criticism that which is true, that which is fact. We are foolish if we respond angrily to every criticism. Who knows, God may be using those words to teach us some essential lessons, painful though they may be.

Isn't this what Proverbs 27:5-6 is saying?

Better is open rebuke
Than love that is concealed.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.

And let me call to your attention the word friend in these verses. Friendship is not threatened but strengthened by honest criticism. But---when you are criticized by one who hardly knows you, filter out what is fact . . . and ignore the rest!

Nehemiah did that . . . and he got the wall built.


amalia said...

This is a great post. I have experienced the prejudice and stigma with my son at his school that is why he is homeschooled now...I am getting the courage to fight back.

Special Needs Mom said...

Amalia, I am so sorry you and your son have experienced this with your school system. We too, experienced it, and we too, homeschool now.

I post this with a prayer for you. I believe you already ARE courageous, Amalia. Each day you wake up and embrace the day and all that waits, you show your courage and love. Bless you, and thank you for helping to pave the road for the special mothers and children coming up behind you. Theresa

Michael and Michelle said...

Yes, I agree...this is a great post. Thank you so much for creating this blog. Sometimes the road my husband and I walk with and for our son seems so's hard to remember there are others out there walking a similar road. So, when someone decides to try to walk with us, all the while judging, criticizing or discouraging's nice to know that God is there too, and will help us through it all.
It's also because of this that we homeschool.

Special Needs Mom said...

When I read your post I thought of one of my favorite songs, "I AM" by Mark Schultz. Do you know it? Cut and paste the link below, and take a listen.

May our spirits be raised this day, and may we remember that we are secure in His hands no matter our circumstances. Bless you, and thank you for reading. Theresa

paigemonkeys said...

Loved the Roosevelt quote, totally drained today and needed something to make it through to my 2nd half. Still gotta get dinner on the table with a smile! Although I love my daughter I am trying to heal and grow now from the pain of the schools, stares & comments!! Long road...