Conservatives are often accused of being heartless and cruel to the suffering. According to most research, self-described conservatives donate more time and money to charity than do self-described liberals – they just don’t spend any time talking about it.

Conservatism is about empowering the individual because all people are capable of reaching their potential and accomplishing great things. “Great things” doesn’t mean that everyone is capable of curing cancer or single-handedly advancing the productivity of society.

“Great things” means doing something great at any level. Sometimes greatness is opening a restaurant by preparing food in a way that no one else has before. Sometimes greatness is finding the most efficient way to deliver office supplies. Great happens every day at a local level where it less frequently does at a national or global level.

But to reach potential and achieve greatness, one has to create the opportunity and try. The fact is that there are a lot of unmotivated or lazy people out there. I count myself among them.

Laziness is a perfectly healthy and able-bodied young man standing at a corner asking for money. If he spent that day on the corner instead looking for a job, it’s hard to believe he couldn’t find something.

Thanks to the stigma of “burger-flipping,” too many young people who should be working and learning the lessons a job can teach are content to earn a government welfare check – and those are the people who sadden and disappoint conservatives. Some misinterpret that sadness and disappointment as disgust and assign it not only to the lazy, but the truly helpless, by creating the myth that conservatives have disdain for those who are truly unable – whether through handicap, abuse or other permanent and temporary hardship – to support themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, there should be a stigma surrounding not working or contributing in some way. Contribution can come in many forms – maybe raising children or teaching illiterate adults to read. It’s part of the social contract that binds this country. But as soon as someone falls on hard times, conservatives are among the first in line to lend a hand. All they want to see in return is the desire and passion of the people they’re helping to be self-sufficient.

Speaking legislatively, you’d be hard-pressed to find an example of a conservative arguing against the concept of a safety net for those in society who need it. Besides, remember that conservatives run into hard times, too, and if they’re at a point at which they’re truly unable to help themselves, no matter how much they try, they might be the ones needing the assistance.

Liberals and conservatives both extol the virtues of hard work. But whether intentionally or unintentionally, liberal policies and their attitudes toward the merit of some jobs over others often have the unintended consequences of de-motivating portions of the workforce. By making fun of or dismissing lower wage jobs as impossible to live on, many would rather simply take welfare instead of a janitor position.

Motivation is taught. There is a whole generation who believes it’s entitled to things. Cars, cell phones, nice clothes, a mini-mansion, computers – these kids were raised by the Baby Boomers. They assume these luxury items are basic necessities, but didn’t have to work for them.

To teach motivation, simply show a person the carrot and then teach them how to earn it. The kids who work hard at minimum wage jobs or volunteer with their spare time – those are the kids who understand the power of motivation. Those who weren’t taught that they had to earn what they get will end up the lazy. They won’t respect what they have and, in turn, won’t respect those who work hard for what they have.

When people work toward their potential, they’ll have a feeling of reward and accomplishment that will be all the payback they need – one that can never be taken away from them.