Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When Helping Hurts

 When Helping Hurts - By Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

           So, the book I've been mentioning in the past couple of posts... When Helping Hurts: How to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor and yourself By: Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert turned out to be a very controversial book! During our Zimbabwe team meeting this past Sunday, we all were supposed to discuss the book (since we were all supposed to read it), but it turned out to be less of a discussion and more of a brief "book bashing", if you will. I was pretty upset, because I found the book extremely profound and helpful. However, the majority of the responses to the book were something like, "It offended me!".
           Although, I will admit that this book tends to generalize a bit and come off alittle strong at certain points, I found the message to be extremely informative. I was offended too! But more offended that I have at times had the wrong attitude when helping someone in the past and did not realize that some of the things I thought were helpful were actually quite hurtful.
           Anyway, I will leave it for you to decide. I will continue my post with some of the highlights of the book. Let me know what you think about all this!

The introduction starts off with the authors proclaiming their 2 convictions: First, North American Christians are simply not doing enough. We are the richest people ever to walk the face of the earth. Period. Yet, most of us live as though there is nothing terribly wrong in the world...And, in our own backyards, the homeless, those residing in ghettos, and a wave of immigrants live in a world outside the economic and social mainstream of North America. We do not necessarily need to feel guility about our wealth. But we do need to get up every morning with a deep sense that something is terribly wrong with the world and yearn to strive to do something about it...Second,...when North American Christians do attempt to alleviate poverty, the methods used often do considerable harm to both the materially poor and the materially non-poor. Our concern is not just that these methods are wasting human, spiritual, financial, and organizational resources but that these methods are actually exacerbating the very problems they are trying to solve.
I resonate with both of these arguments, but the question that comes to mind is, "Well, how can we respond to poverty differently?" And, "How do we spread these 2 convictions to the entire American Christian church?"

The authors go on to explain that there are four different kinds of poverty and that often Americans tend to treat only the material type of poverty. This they claim is only treating the symptoms. They say:
When a sick person goes to the doctor, the doctor could make two crucial mistakes: (1) Treating symptoms instead of the underlying illness; (2) Misdiagnosing the underlying illness and prescribing the wrong medicine. Either one of these mistakes will result in teh patient not getting better and possibly getting worse. The same is true when we work with poor people. If we treat only the symptoms or if we misdiagnose the underlying problem, we will not improve their situation, and we might actually make their lives worse.
I've found that the main point of the book comes down to this one phrase, "Spending yourself" often involves more than giving a heandout to a poor person...
and also that, human beings are multifaceted, implying that poverty-alleviation efforts should be multifaceted as well.

This book explains that as non-poor people, we need to experience a change in the way that we see the poor and the causes of their poverty so that we can then change the way that we help the poor. The authors hope that this will help us to more adequately alleviate poverty and in the process prevent doing harm along the way.

There is WAY more important stuff in this book including examples of true stories and practical ways that we can help better. I encourage you all to read it!! But for now, I'll leave you with those words.

Here's a link to the website for the book: http://www.whenhelpinghurts.org/
It has examples, exercises, and will give you a general idea as to what the book is about.

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