The Day I Knew I Was Prejudiced

The Day I Knew I Was Prejudiced

I'll never forget the moment I waited at a counter in a nearby poverty-ridden city and stood before a woman whose ethnicity was not my own and asked for some coupons so I could feed my family. I'll be honest. I was the only white girl there. The sweet woman behind the dingy counter asked me my basic information, and I answered somewhat curtly. I didn't want to be nice because I was grieving that I was even there. But she was being so kind to me. Then she asked me my level of education.

I stood in front of her and had a moment that seemed like it lasted for five minutes as I grappled with trying to speak the words, "Master's Degree", without weeping. What was a white girl with a Master's Degree doing at a state run facility asking for help to buy milk and other groceries? I didn't belong here, I thought. I'm too educated, too privileged, for this. I knew all about the reasons why I was there. Nearly a year and a half of unemployment, rising bills, a young child, constant struggle to survive with basics, a relentless job search, and endless hardship. And then a friend told me about this program. As an “upper-middle class” girl, I never even knew such things existed, but I knew “those people” who “took advantage” of my good taxpayers money! And then there I was.

In the devastated economy, I wasn't alone. A recent news program did an extensive story about the new face of poverty in America because of our economy. More people live in poverty in the suburbs than in inner cities nowadays. Hard working folks who have been hanging on to their houses for years through unemployment are losing their homes and finding themselves at food banks. I wasn't alone, but it felt like it. I didn't need anyone looking at me with disdain in line at the grocery store, although they often did. I carried enough shame for all of us. Grateful for the help I received, I never once went to the grocery store without crying all the way home out of feelings of guilt.

It humbles me to think of my attitude in those days. I would have never said that I was biased or prejudiced against anyone. But when the rubber met the road, I realized that I indeed, was just that, even though I was a Christian. And God taught me a lot. He used those dire circumstances to humble me, purge my heart from some terrible sin, and give me a heart of deep and lasting compassion.

It's been flying all over the place it seems, this year. Hot topics that people love to hate. Chicken sandwiches and the gay community, gun lovers, the superficial Hollywood, or that person in line on welfare holding an iphone in their hand. And I've been grieved. Not over a particular targeted group or standout sin issue, but grieved over the way people speak and treat other human beings, especially other Christians.

Bias. Prejudice. Webster defines bias as a “bent, tendency” or “an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially: a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment”. Prejudice is a “preconceived judgment or opinion” or “an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge”. The worst part is that it is also “an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics”.

Doesn't it make your heart drop to think that as a Christian, we can spout our distaste for the “worldly” or someone we think is “taking advantage” of our rights or good graces? Maybe you don't say it out loud, but do you think it?

I say this in as gentle a way as I can, but Christian, don't be ignorant about these issues or the people around you that you think you know. You don't know them. You don't necessarily know their background, their beliefs, or their circumstances. Instead of speaking words that kill and destroy, or body language that shows your disapproval, have compassion. Show them LOVE! That's what Jesus did!

“And hearing this, Jesus said to them, 'It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

“Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples.” Matthew 9:10

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were bewildered and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

More than anything, Jesus demonstrated His great love for us, dying for us, and loving us while we were still His enemies. THAT'S our example. It doesn't matter if you agree or disagree with someone's choices, lifestyle, sin issues, or politics. Your attitude, your heart, matters. But for the grace of God, we could be standing in their shoes. I know. I've done just that. If you find a little bit of truth here, a shadow of prejudice in the hallway of your heart, then I certainly don't judge you. I've had enough of that. But I do hope and pray that you will clothe yourself with kindness, asking the Holy Spirit to renew in you a sense of love for your neighbor, stains and all.

YOUR TURN! How has Christ's compassion changed you? What ways can you and I be more sensitive to the needs and circumstances of others around us? How can we better detect pride in our own lives? I LOVE to hear from you! 

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory. Psalm 115:1

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Amber Lia

A former high school English teacher, Amber is a work-at-home mom of 4 little boys under the age of 10. She is the best-selling author of Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses and Parenting Scripts: When What You’re Saying Isn’t Working, say Something New. She and her husband Guy own Storehouse Media Group, a faith-friendly and family-friendly TV and Film production company in Los Angeles, CA. When she’s not building sand castles with her boys on the beach, or searching for Nerf darts all over her house, you can find Amber writing to encourage families on her blog at Mother of Knights (www.motherofknights.com).