My dad’s left hand is messed up. It didn’t develop properly in the womb. It’s an oval-shaped thing with small, dangly, non-working nubs.
I have never considered him handicapped. I’d guess the same is true of most kids whose parents were in some manner not physically “right.”
He was a great athlete in his youth. He’s also a pretty dang good carpenter, plumber, electrician, mechanic, horseman, farrier, farmer, rancher, hunter and fisher. And yes, he can do all of those. Better than I am on all counts, even with my working left hand.
My dad’s birth defect — yes that’s what it is, it isn’t supposed to be like that — has absolutely no bearing on his moral standing as a human. He is not somehow morally “less” simply because a hand didn’t develop as designed. His hand is both natural — it occurred, didn’t it? — and unnatural — that’s not how a hand is supposed to be — at the same time.
But in no way is he morally inferior because of this reality. He is not defined by his left hand. It is an aspect of him, but only one of hundreds, and not a very important one to boot. I suppose people could use his left hand as the sole means to define him but that would be rather silly.
Each of us is like a multifaceted cut diamond with hundreds and hundreds of aspects. As free individuals each of us can choose which aspects of a person are of most importance and judge and discriminate for or against them accordingly. Not everyone is my cup-of-tea and I am certain I’m not for many others.
I think of this when I see my college buddy’s 20-something son who has developed a serious brain malfunction. He visits his personal hell on a regular occurrence. It is heartbreaking to watch. But he simply has a brain issue. Just like my dad’s left hand, his brain simply didn’t develop exactly as designed. It is again, both natural and unnatural at the same time but in no way is he morally inferior; he is not “less” in any way.
I think of this when I see a friend’s autistic child. He is not morally defective; he simply got dealt a crappy hand in the development of his brain. Natural and unnatural at the same time.
And I’ve been thinking about this as I read about the growing movement to more fully accept those whose sexual traits exist outside the norm. Although many in these movements don’t want to accept it, these are natural and unnatural at the same time. But not morally inferior. Not morally defective. Just different on one aspect of the hundreds that make us who we are.
Each of us has unnatural aspects to ourselves. Some are small and some are large. Some are hidden and some stand out. But each of us is so much more than these quite natural differences. Each individual is a cornucopia of traits. Some we might like and some we might not. We can choose our friends and shun others based on a single trait or the collection of the whole.
None of us are defined by a single facet of who we are. So, why make judgments that don’t encompass the whole person?
My dad is not defined by his left hand. We don’t need to celebrate his left hand, simply accept it for what it is; a very small and not very important part of a much larger mosaic. And I am dang lucky to have him as my dad.
John Conlin is an expert in organizational design and change. He is also President and founder of E.I.C. Enterprises, www.EICEnterprises.org, a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to spreading the truth here and around the world primarily through K-12 education.