I know, I know, I still owe you guys the second half of the access/accomodation post, it’s just that this popped up and I wanted to talk about it…
I’m sure that every person with a disability has at some point encountered the pity effect. This is fresh on my mind right now because someone at reddit.com responded to my post about needing help to get a service dog by asking ‘Why should I pity you?’
I can speak with confidence to say that the vast majority of us do not want to be pitied. Sometimes we want help, sometimes we want sympathy, sometimes we just want someone to give a damn. But pity? No.
Self-help books and presentations everywhere speak to the uselessness of wallowing in self-pity. It’s a waste of energy, it doesn’t help, it really gets you stuck on your problem and doesn’t let you think of solutions, so on.
If self-pity is so bad, then why do we ever think that pitying others is good?
When someone is pitied, they stop being a human being to the person who is pitying them. Instead, they are a thing – an object. We become a disability, a problem, a sad story.
It sets us apart. When people pity, they feel guilty when they interact with that person, so it becomes ‘painful’ – and that ‘pain’ gets transferred to us, so that people who pity see US as painful! Nevermind that what’s painful is their reaction to us, and choosing to see us as a pitiful thing instead of a fellow human being.
Okay, so many of us need help.
Would you pity someone who asked you to grab something off the top shelf because they are too short to reach it?
Would you pity someone who asked you to help set up for a party because they don’t have the time to do everything?
Would you pity someone who needed help with a door because their hands were full of groceries?
Then why pity us when we need help?