What If They Aren’t Lazy?

You know that unemployed person you know who is lazy and sitting around all day and not doing anything to find work? Well, what if you’re wrong? What if, while you’re at your 40+ hour per week job that takes you away from observing his every move, he is actually making an effort? What if the reason you don’t know exactly what he is doing, who he is doing it with and when is because his unemployment crisis is intensely private to him? What if he doesn’t want you to know he’s applied to hundreds of companies and not one has been interested…even Burger King? What if he is embarrassed to reveal he is working midnights at the gas station for cash, while you sleep, and is in bed during the day as a result? What if he is online working on free tutorials all day to upgrade his skills because he can’t afford to go back to college? What if, at the end of the day, it’s simply none of your business to know what he is doing?

Better yet, what if that person really isn’t doing anything? But, what if it’s because he is broken versus lazy? What if it’s because he’s been working at this from the beginning of this crisis and has experienced never ending rejection on top of growing financial devastation. What if his home is about to be gone? What if even landing a job right now wouldn’t save him, someone who worked hard his whole life, from catastrophe? What if he feels so alone, ashamed and worthless there doesn’t seem to be a reason to make an effort anymore? What if the fact those who are losing their jobs now, who haven’t had to ride the same devastating roller coaster of joblessness he had to, during a time when there was nothing, are going to be chosen ahead of him because they don’t have a long gap of unemployment, is adding to the despair? What if he is thinking of giving up on everything, not just his job search, because there is no clear way out and he doesn’t want to be a burden to his family or society?

I’m writing this post today because my heart hurts. I sincerely love all of the unemployed professionals I’ve had a chance to meet in this journey we’ve shared to a better tomorrow. I know their secrets, their hopes, their private hell… I can’t sleep in my comfortable house at night because I can feel the weight of the load they carry. Can we as a compassionate society please work harder to assume those who are struggling with chronic unemployment might actually be good people in a bad situation versus jumping to the conclusion they are lazy or content with their situation? There are lazy people amongst us, but few people would be willing to lose the roof over the heads of their children to watch Oprah.


  • Scot Richards says:

    Thank you.
    Your compassionate words resonated loud and clear with me. I appreciate your acknowledgement.
    Please know regardless of the number of rejections I receive I shall not give up. When employment comes I will stay in the game to help others. I know what it feels like.


  • I agree with your main point that this term “lazy” is thrown around too loosely. Discouragement is a very real phenomenon and it makes sense that people will loose steam after a long line of rejections. So, in that sense I agree that a broad program of compassion and encouragement needs to be available to people who are having trouble finding work.

    At the same time though, I think that laziness is also real. I experience it all of the time. I also think that laziness can in some sense conspire with discouragement and depression. It can be like a perfect storm of environmental factors (the outer events that lead to discouragement) and moral weakness (the inner motive of sloth). So, if it is a real factor (the inner moral weakness) then why not acknowledge its presence?

    I was very poor in my late 20’s. There were many factors that led me to that point, but, from hind site, I think that laziness was definitely one of the causes. So I am admitting that it has affected me (and still does to some extent.) As nearly as I can tell, laziness is a forbidden topic but it is, at the same time, one of the biggest drivers for poverty and misery in the US.

    I run a charity to offer free, on-going encouragement and support to people who believe and are willing to confidentially admit that laziness has been a factor in their lives. I don’t accuse people of being lazy – I only look for volunteers who are willing to admit to it, from the beginning. About 1% of the people who hear about what I am doing will privately say to me, “yes, what you are talking about describes me … I am lazy.” If that 1% holds true across the whole of America then it would mean that more people are affected by laziness than are affected by many of the more “well-known” disabling physical illness. If it’s real, then lets talk about it.

    Thanks for writing this article. You got me thinking!

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