mattering fairness image

Pity undermines the sense of mattering because it makes us feel devalued, and it implies that we cannot add value.

After I lost my parents in a car accident when he was eight years old, I became the subject of pity. People meant no harm, but the sensation of being less than other people on account of a tragedy did not sit well with me. Adults were especially bad at this. In Spanish, I was often called "pobrecito," which more or less translates into "poor soul." Kids my age, in contrast, were much more attuned to my feelings, and they never made me feel inferior or marked for life.

My friend Beto, in particular, made me feel respected and appreciated; that I still mattered despite the loss of my parents. We kept playing soccer, pretending to do homework together, and visiting often. He always welcomed me into his house, and indeed we spent many days there, feeling like the friendship was the one place where I did not feel pity.

As Ora, my wife, and others have shown in earlier studies, people with disabilities are also often the subject of pity. They are made to feel that their lives are not really as worthy as the lives of able bodied people. The "tragedy" replaces the person, and the person becomes the disability, as opposed to the disability becoming a part of the person. These experiences cheat people of their dignity.
Photo of Isaac
posted by Isaac Prilleltensky
06/15/2018