“The punishment for acting helpless is to find yourself at the mercy of others.” – Marty Ruben


A student contacted me recently to relay a learning event her aunt experienced.

The aunt is described as middle aged and attractive; an independent business woman who has worked hard and done well for herself.  She dresses in high end fashions, tasteful, but expensive jewelry, and drives a luxury German car. She’s not the type to leave the house without hair and makeup done – always looking, in my student’s words, “well put together.

On this day she had business which required a visit to a Social Security Administration office, the nearest being on the southside of Chicago. Thinking nothing of it, she parked her car, walked to the building and entered the waiting area. As she crossed the threshold, she described it as a scene from a movie where the music stops and all eyes turn to stare. Her exact words were, “I can’t explain it other than I knew I just shouldn’t be there.” She immediately listened to her inner voice, turned around, and went back to her car. Her next instinct was to call her niece, “the one who takes all those self-defense training classes”, to find answers.

So, what did she sense, exactly? Was she simply “out of place?” Of course, but the meaning is deeper than “square peg, round hole.”

Consider the economic and health status of the average person sitting in a Social Security office; there’s going to be an overabundance of disabled and low-income people, as well as elderly. When a well-dressed, beautiful, young, healthy and wealthy woman walks through the door, it’s going to get attention, and some of that attention will be bad attention.

We’re all familiar with the 7 Deadly Sins? They are: Pride, envy, wrath, gluttony, greed, sloth, and lust.

Which of those might her audience be engaging in?

Envy – Absolutely.
Lust – In terms of wanting what she had, you bet.
Pride – “How dare she flaunt herself like that and make me feel useless and poor.
Sloth – Think anyone in that office is lying about their condition to get a check? Does she serve as a
reminder to some of what they might have been, yet failed to be?
Greed and Gluttony – Perhaps. Then again, perhaps not personally – they may simply view her as guilty of it. And with guilt comes the last of 7…
Wrath – Think anyone there was wishing ill on her?

This can be summed up as “perceived inequality”; a “haves vs the have nots” situation. Of course, there is nothing in life that is equal. No two people possess the exact same intelligence, beauty, health, strength, speed, abilities, tastes, eye sight, height, family, friends – nothing. Every one of us is dealt a different hand to play. Yet, humans have always been in conflict over their perceptions of inequality.

Imagine yourself in a lifeboat with 8 others. There is no status or class. All 8 of you are equally miserable and as equally close to death. But, as luck would have it, right before the ship went down, you grabbed a package of M&M’s. They are your property, and they are yours to do with as you wish, but, all 7 of the other occupants not only want your M&M’s, they expect them. Think about what would happen if you didn’t “share” them… Is it too far of a stretch to say 1 or more of your fellow boatmates might be willing to resort to violence over an M&M? How about murder? Think they might take a vote (good ole’ democracy) and pitch you overboard? Of course they might – let’s not be naïve.

On the other hand, what if everyone had their own package of M&M’s. All are “equal.” But, a few people ate all of their’s the first day? It’s now day 4 and you have been rationing yours. You now have the same problem.

Now, let’s say we start an International M&M Emergency Organization administered by some utopian world governing body – all people are compelled to put a small percentage of their paychecks into a fund so that in the event they are stuck in a lifeboat, they’ll have a sugary chocolate treat to eat. Which, through some socialist miracle, will be rationed out daily, and equally, to all lifeboat passengers.  (Work with me folks, it’s just an illustration. Absurd, yes, but it has a payoff.)

Now, you’re in the lifeboat and everybody has M&M’s. All are equal. …Then my student’s aunt cruises by on her 200’ yacht; she’s holding a lobster tail in one hand and a champagne glass in the other. She yells out to you, “I sure am glad we that we have the M&M insurance policy!” then continues on with her voyage.

Here comes the hate, right?

Well, that’s kind of what happened to her last week. If you could crawl into the thoughts of those staring at her it might look to be along the lines of: She parked a yacht outside and walked into my life boat to collect M&M’s.

In the past 120-years of human history, all manner of communist systems have been implemented in an attempt to eliminate inequalities. None have ever been successful. No matter how “equal” things are, they never appear so to those who consider themselves an “M&M short.”

Capitalism is the only system that has ever considered the hopes and dreams of the individual. It’s the system that allows you to not only see wealth, but provides a mechanism to attain it. When I see Jay Leno’s car collection, I don’t want to destroy he, or it. I know that if I’m willing to work hard and use my brain, I may not have his exact collection, but I might be able to have at least one car that I want. Capitalism reins in the negative emotions like no other because it provides opportunity. The M&M’s are always out there, but it’s up to you to earn them.

But, no matter what system is in place, no one will ever be truly equal. There will always be those who, for a plethora of reasons, don’t, won’t, or can’t succeed to the level of others. And there will always be a percentage of people who, no matter how good their lives are, will be jealous of the rest. It’s the human condition.

What does this mean for us?

We must always be living a stealth existence. Blending in to our environments, never attracting unwanted attention. Such a way of life requires preparation and thought, as well as a realization that 100% success is unattainable. Eventually, regardless of our best efforts, we will all find ourselves on the end of someone else’s 7 sins projection. When that happens, it’s in our best interest to disengage at the lowest force level possible. If that means turning around and walking right back out the door, so be it, because we don’t get know when our adversary will take this old adage to heart…

The wages of sin is death

“Pride is more than the first of the Seven Deadly Sins; it is itself the essence of all sin.” – John Stott