“If you can’t get a job in this economy, then it’s your own fault.”

That’s the statement I overheard some time ago at a meeting I was attending. The comment wasn’t intended for me and the other people engaged in the conversation all seemed to agree with this statement.

Of course that’s easy to do when you have a secure job and have probably had one for a long time.

But these individuals were missing so much. There are so many things to consider when we encounter someone who does not have a job, even in a supposedly great economy.

Making a statement like the one that was said publicly is easy to do. Especially when we think our own situation and experiences are the norm for everyone else. And it’s easy to make this kind of generalization because it really applies to no one in particular. There are no names attached with it. No faces. No lives. Just a critical statement that releases everyone else from responsibility.

And then there is reality. Real people. Real faces. Real lives. And these real people are much more complicated than the statement implies. Poverty works that way. Yes, there is a lack of employees for open positions. Does that mean that all people looking for work qualify for all jobs open? Hardly. The reality is, even with a smaller pool of potential employees, employers are picky about who they hire. I have no issue with that. You want the best candidate for the job. That makes sense.

And we need to face another reality – we have a whole bunch of people that no one is interested in hiring for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons are self-inflicted. Some concern mental states, health concerns, changing jobs and locations.

So instead of making easy statements that devalue people, can we acknowledge that we have bigger problems. It is a reality that businesses are looking for employees. It is also a reality that there are many people who want to work but can’t get a job. The two truths can co-exist and both be true. So the question is this – now what? What do we do with people who want to work, but are unqualified for the existing jobs, or don’t have people skills needed, or have some kind of mental health challenge, or are struggling with homelessness or poverty?

Maybe we should see that there are at least two issues at hand and start to tackle these instead of believing that jobs available and job seekers are always related.

It would be a start. And it might stop us from making simplistic statements about people that we know nothing about.