No doubt, despite his personal generosity, Francis of Assisi, like many in our society, took his privilege for granted as God-given. Only later did Francis let go of his social and economic privilege so he could live in solidarity with all creation—rich and poor, human and nonhuman. I have come to recognize that privilege can insulate as well as isolate. Despite our relative wealth and comfort, the realities of privilege can spiritually harm both the privileged and the marginalized, whose poverty is often the shadow side of our abundance. We who are privileged can gain the world and lose our souls. Our sense of entitlement and alienation from those who struggle contracts our spirits and renders us oblivious to the voice of God speaking through our human and nonhuman neighbors. We fail to realize that many of our greatest achievements are the result of advantages we neither deserved or earned just as many persons’ poverty and failure come are the result of factors beyond their control. Initiative and hard work matter, but achievement is shaped by what we’ve been given, not just what we’ve earned. Tragically, the poverty of others is often connected to our own economic wellbeing.
—from the book Walking with Francis of Assisi: From Privilege to Activism
by Bruce Epperly