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Hosmer, R. (1974). Poverty and Human Growth. Am. J. Psychoanal., 34(3):263-269.

(1974). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 34(3):263-269

Other Voices

Poverty and Human Growth

Sister Rachel Hosmer, OSH

Poverty is one of the most pressing of world problems today, recognized as an evil in every culture. Protein deficiency retards mental growth, and people who are hungry, cold, and diseased have to spend most of their energies on the task of survival. They are left with little strength for growing. Conditions of poor housing, inadequate garbage collection, street lighting, police protection, and transportation, plus high rents and retail prices, all work together to create and maintain slums. Slums, in their turn, destroy community institutions, with slum dwellers as victims.

Spiritual poverty, in the sense of emotional, intellectual, moral, and aesthetic privation is closely related to, but not confined to, conditions of economic privation, and is the antithesis of human growth. Poverty as an experience extends over every aspect of human life. Flexible and inexorable, it touches every facet of our being, even the most intimate. In the end it takes us wholly in death. This is the ultimate poverty, when man is stripped of all possessions and accumulations.

In some sense, however, poverty has long been recognized as related to blessedness. In the Sermon on the Mount, the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3), has long been held in esteem by many, while others have found it a problem. The question, then, concerns exploring the meaning of “spiritual poverty,” interpreted not as faintheartedness or spiritual feebleness, but as an interior attitude of humility, moderation, and a healthy interest in and for openness to others.

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