Throughout my life as a lawyer, pastor and author, I’ve always had a heart for the underdog. I’ve always felt compassion for people who face difficult struggles. I used to think that this was just a part of my personality. When I was a little girl with five older brothers, I’d share a drink of my pop (yes, I’m from the Chicago area!) with all of them if they didn’t have any….leaving me with little for myself. But sharing with them made me happy, because they were happy.
I recently was reminded of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs….you know, the one you studied in school that identifies the basic needs of humans in a pyramid, beginning at the base with physiological needs, with the higher needs at the apex.
According to Maslow, only when you’ve satisfied the basic needs can you focus on achieving the highest of human needs, which is self-actualization. The pyramid shows that self-actualization includes, at the very top, morality. Every human has a need to fulfill a sense of what’s right and moral in their lives. The human heart that hasn’t been corrupted yearns for goodness and justice, not just for self, but for all.
Self-actualization to me means that you’ve been fortunate enough to have your other basic needs met to such an extent that you can focus on the higher desires of your hearts. When you reach that point, you’re able to figure out that it’s not all about you. When you self-actualize, you can stop focusing on your own needs and think more about what purpose you will serve to others in this world.
That’s how I moved from practicing tax law to ministry. As a tax lawyer, with a job that I truly did enjoy, I would find myself telling co-workers and friends from time to time that I didn’t know what I was going to do when I grew up. As my walk with God deepened over time, I realized one day that life is simply too short for me not to be doing something that has meaning and purpose for me. I think that’s when I made the jump from the “esteem” category on Maslow’s list to “self-actualization.” You see, I realized then that my life was not to be defined by how much money I made or how important was my social stature. I realized that life would have more meaning for me if I spent my time helping others to grow closer to the goodness of God. That was when I grew up, and realized that ministry was the life for me.
And through all of that growing up, I have always cared for the least and the lost. My ministry as a religious leader and pastor has involved not just feeding and clothing those who are poor, but trying to understand what can be done to overcome the condition of poverty. That means focusing on both the personal and societal stumbling blocks that prevent people from moving out of their difficult circumstances. And that necessarily includes speaking in the political arena. Spirituality and social justice are integrally connected to me.
The surprise for me when I entered ministry was learning that so many people don’t see that connection. Many people of faith feel there is no role for religion in the political arena. Yet, I know that many faithful people do make the connection, and they work hard to make changes in our society to benefit the least of God’s children. This blog is my effort to find and connect with people who have passion for both spirituality and social justice. I’ll share some of my thoughts on this subject, as well as information about the efforts of people of faith who are making a difference in this world. I hope you will join the conversation.