Bold Compassion for The Unemployed

by Tess on January 28, 2009

 busy day's mass punching
Creative Commons License photo credit: weegeebored

I choose bold. I choose action. I choose what’s right for the people. I choose to make a difference.                                                                                                        -Bill Richardson

I happen to be reading a book on shame, “I Thought It Was Just Me.”  by Brene Brown. It is the best book I’ve read on shame. She writes: We feel shame. Shame is an emotion. It is how we feel when we have certain experiences. When we are in shame, we don’t see the big picture; we don’t accurately think about our strengths and limitations. We just feel alone, exposed and deeply flawed.”

“Monday 70,000 people lost their jobs. Wells Fargo senior economist stated in USA Today Tuesday, “Some of the worst job losses are ahead of us, not behind us.” He expects 3 million Americans to lose their jobs in 2009.

If don’t already, soon you will know someone who is unemployed. Know they feel shame about it. One reason is because we live in a culture where who we are and what we do is the source of our identity and income.

The unemployed often feel like failures. Often when around others the dreaded question is, “Did you find a job yet?” This causes people to isolate, which in turn leads to depression.

My message to the unemployed is: Your job loss isn’t your fault, you are not to blame and you are not a failure! Downsizing, outsourcing or greed is likely the result of your job loss.
But I’m not writing this to place blame on anyone. I’m writing this so we who are able can reach out to those who are in shame, pain and financial trouble.

I found a poem that explains the desperation.

Unemployment Shame  
Rows and rows of boxes
All of them the same
With rooms and rooms of people
Each without a name
Hearts that beat, though breaking
And smiles that mask the pain
Of fading hopes of sunshine
Through windows drenched with rain.
Once lovers, now not speaking
Except to lay the blame
For broken dreams and the poverty
Of unemployment shame.
Empty cupboards and drunken sleep
Are all part of the game
But hungry babies wake them still
On mornings all the same.

Jane Solanrobertson / Warrington, England

Again, if you are unemployed you aren’t to blame, it’s not your fault, and you are not a failure.

Do you know someone who has lost their job? If so would you be willing to reach out to them? A phone call, meet for coffee, networking suggestions, a chance to listen, a little compassion goes a long way.  Maybe the couple that lost their jobs in California and their children would be alive today if they had someone to lean on.

Every day in our own way we can make a differece in our world. Won’t you join me?

Let me know your thoughts about shame, unemployment or making a difference.

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    { 9 comments… read them below or add one }

    Daphne January 28, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Hi Tess,

    This post struck a deep chord because I know people who have been retrenched. As you pointed out, they just don’t feel like meeting anyone because then they’d have to talk about something that they are ashamed of. It’s very sad.

    I was actually dating someone last year who then got retrenched. He just didn’t want to see me anymore and explained it wasn’t my fault. The equivalent is if I’d put on 50 pounds overnight – I wouldn’t want to meet anyone in that state either until I got it resolved. So the poem is true about ‘lovers now not speaking’.

    It’s a hard, hard situation. Thanks for the reminder to reach out to those who really need compassion right now.

    Daphne’s last blog post..Becoming A Person of Value


    Sara at On Simplicity January 28, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Being unemployed absolutely is not a failure. I’ve been there, as has pretty much everyone I know. I do think it’s important for folks to take responsibility for what happens next, though. Deal with the shock, the consequences, and possibly the shame, but then it’s important to let that go and be proactive.

    Of course, as you mention, having supportive folks around who don’t judge can make all the difference in that somewhat painful transition.

    Sara at On Simplicity’s last blog post..My Dirty Blogging Secret


    Jannie Funster January 28, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    My husband is self-employed, so no job loss but we have certainly been going through tighter times.

    I used to feel a bit of shame for not having money, but I don’t now because I’ve come to feel money is not and will never be WHO I am. It’s just an illusion really.

    Jannie Funster’s last blog post..Twinkle Shooters


    the weakonomist January 29, 2009 at 5:03 am

    I take issue with greed being a reason for layoffs. As a capitalist, profit is a big deal to me. But I’ve watched people around me get laid off, and I’ve talked to the people that must make these decisions. There is nothing more painful for a company than having to let someone go that they know is a fantastic asset to the company. Even the greediest of greed hungry corporate types feel don’t want to lay off people. They are forced to because it is the only way to keep the company alive.

    As someone who may get laid off this year, I really did love this post though. Keep them coming.

    the weakonomist’s last blog post..Qvisory – What is 2009 Going to Look Like?


    Tess January 29, 2009 at 7:33 am


    I think in a difficult situation it’s important to everything one has learned to stay positive and hopeful. I like you’re 50 lb. analogy.
    That’s powerful.

    It reminds me of a line in an old song “I get along with a little help from my friends!”

    I hear you on the illusion. What’s amazing is you can see that while you’re in a tight spot. Such wisdom.

    We’re all entitled to our own opinions. You have the right to be different and think different than me. Thanks for stopping by and sharing yours. Oh and thanks for the compliment!


    Broderick Allen January 29, 2009 at 11:57 am

    “we live in a culture where who we are and what we do is the source of our identity and income”

    That’s powerful. Often people define themselves by how much money they make or social status. This could be a blessing in disguise. Something as seemingly traumatic as losing a job has the potential to make people realize they are so much more than how much they have in the bank.

    Broderick Allen’s last blog post..Life is Short?


    Tess January 29, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    I know this is a blessing in disguise. There are so many opportunities to grow in a crisis.

    I belive more people will see the light because it will be to painful to continue living in the dark.


    Carla January 29, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    I’ve known a few people who have lost their jobs recently and fortunately they have done well financially so they are not really feeling the financial sting. With that said, it’s still painful. I lost my job after the dot com bubble busted, after 911, and two other times in the past ten years and know the pain, shame and anxiety well. This is a great post.

    Carla’s last blog post..Blogroll – 1/29/2009


    Shamed February 12, 2009 at 12:59 am

    “Again, if you are unemployed you aren’t to blame, it’s not your fault, and you are not a failure.”

    So when exactly does someone become a failure? If not the moment when one’s job is lost, then is it at the moment when one becomes a burden on others? Or when one ceases to live up to one’s potential?

    The statement above reminds me of a mother telling her child “the other kids just make fun of you because they’re jealous.” It’s feel-good nonsense.

    You got laid off because you someone deemed you unnecessary. Or you got fired because you screwed up. It doesn’t always mean you were wrong, but it does mean you failed to convince the boss of your necessity.

    Figure out how to make yourself necessary. Fix the problem. Learn from what went wrong, and make sure it doesn’t happen again. That’s the only solution.


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