Disclaimer: This post is inspired by a question asked of writer Todd Brison on Quora. You can find his website here.
The lie that society has taught me to believe since I was about two years old when I was rejected by people at a daycare center, is that one’s worth is dependent on how much you accomplish and/or are to other people. Maybe there are some of you who have or are still believing this very lie. It’s easy to believe, especially if you live in a developed country like I do. The phrase “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps,” comes from this mentality. It says that, basically, we should be self-made and need minimal, if any, help from others. This mentality also does not take into account or value those who are disabled or otherwise cannot do certain things all by themselves. It may see people who need help of any kind as “weaker,” more “useless,” or somehow “less valuable,” than their able-bodied counterparts. The only benefit to believing this lie is that it forces you to be diligent and not lazy. However, the drawbacks, in my mind, are not worth this benefit. First of all, it devalues people. It not only devalues the disabled or sick but also everyone else because it reduces our worth to be only what we do and if we are “useful” to society or not. Racism and other forms of prejudice derive from this mentality that other people are worth less because of what they do or don’t do in society. Also, this lie is a form of pride. Believing this lie does not allow one to get the help and support they need, because of the stigma of shame and embarrassment of feeling “worthless” if they admit they need help. If one accomplishes success in society’s eyes, this person may become arrogant and look down upon others. Finally, this lie sometimes influences people to spend their life on things that are not as essential, such as becoming a workaholic to the expense of his or her health and loved ones. Because this society is accomplishment driven, some people may chase after money, power, sex, or work to the point of being obsessed with them and delve into becoming an addict, which is never good. If this society based someone’s worth more on how they beautiful and unique they are, for instance, instead of just what they can contribute to society, this wouldn’t be such an issue.
Here are some ways we can counter this lie and its effects:
- Value people.–I have written several times on how we should value people. For these posts see this and this. However, it is worth repeating. One way we can value people more is to thank people for the good that they do to us and others. For instance, if you see a colleague or a boss take the initiative to help you with some of your work because they see it may overwhelm you, say ” Thank you. I appreciate your help.” They are not obligated to help you, but the fact that they did anyway needs to be acknowledged not only for their sake but also for yours as well. Another way we can value people is to encourage people when they feel upset or depressed. Tell and show people that they are still worthy of love even if they don’t accomplish everything they desire or hope.
- Demonstrate and encourage humility.–One way to demonstrate humility is to genuinely apologize when you make a mistake or offend someone. Never say, “I’m sorry, but…,” because you are just excusing what you did, which is not a real apology. The correct way to apologize and make amends with someone you offended is to a.) I am sorry I did x and that I hurt you by doing x. I will promise to try to never do that again. Will you forgive me?” b.) Work to not only offer restitution for the loss the offended party incurred by your mistake or sin but also to never offend them again. Another way to show humility is to be willing to be vulnerable. Never be afraid to ask for someone else’s help or admit that you are not perfect. Yes, it is a risk sometimes. Many people aren’t willing to be vulnerable because they are afraid of what others will think of them and that they will be rejected. That used to be me too in the past. Now, I am not so afraid anymore, because I now know that their opinion really doesn’t matter. It is what God thinks of me that really counts. Also, the people that reject us for being vulnerable and honest with them are probably insecure themselves, and striving to please them is really a waste of time because they will never be satisfied with anything we can give them anyway.
- Be successful in things that will matter for eternity, or for your eternal memory, not just on things that will only last in your earthly life.–Yes, it is good to be successful at one’s job or career, or get good grades. I don’t object to this at all. In fact, I encourage it! However, what I’m saying is don’t focus so much on worldly success that you miss what really counts or what memory you will leave on this earth after your life ends. In order to be truly successful, I believe one of the things people should focus on besides God is the relationships you have on this earth with other people. How are you treating those you profess to love or care about? This is something I think (me included) can do better. Do not be so focused on worldly goals that you miss the eternal and the spiritual, and your relational goals.
If we do these three things, this lie can be seen for the farce it is. People are inherently valuable, not because they can do a lot of good for us, or even the world, but because each person is unique and special in how they were created to be. Value and cherish others today, and never think that we are only as good as what we do.
On Saturday, August 12, 2017, White Nationalists and alt-right groups and those against them clashed violently in Charlottesville, Virginia. Then, a 20-year-old man plowed into a crowd with his car, killing one young woman in the crowd. Because of what happened that day, I felt a responsibility to not only condemn what happened but also to conquer all hate with love. I admit that I have had some prejudicial thoughts myself about certain people and have sometimes judged people unfairly. We all have. This isn’t just about defeating racism (though that is, of course, very important too) but also about defeating all forms of prejudice and hatred in this world. Here are some things I have found effective in defeating prejudice.
- Counter hate with love. Always.–To effectively defeat both prejudices in our own hearts, and melt others’ hard hearts, we must first aim to love. There is a severe lack of love in this world, and not only because certain people are in power. I suspect this has been going on since near the beginning of time! We don’t have to always agree with how people live or what they do, but we do have to love. I believe Jesus loved so much that even when He was being crucified and mocked by religious leaders, the Roman soldiers, and others, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 b and c, KJV) . This is why He is now one of the most respected religious leaders that ever lived! Never hate someone just because they are different than you. One way you can do this is to find the good in everyone you meet, even those who rub you the wrong way. 99.5% (if not all) people have at least one admirable quality about them; no person is all bad.
- Forgive, forgive, forgive.– One of the ways to defeat prejudice is to have a forgiving heart because, most, if not all prejudice, stems from a grudge-filled heart against a person or group of people. Create a policy in your heart that says that you will not hold a grudge against anyone after a certain period of time (HINT: It needs to be sooner than “after many years” or “never”). This may be harder for some, but we must persevere in forgiveness. Yes, we may have a right to hold a grudge, especially if what someone did to you was grievous or vile, but what good will it do you? You are not really “punishing” the offender because they probably don’t give a care about what you think of them or what they did wrong. You are only hurting yourself and preventing other people who did nothing to hurt you from helping you to heal from your wounds and forget about the person that hurt you. I have also heard many stories about people forgiving their offenders for particularly horrific crimes ranging from rape to murder, and everything in between, and how they related that they felt freer once they let the offender off their hook and let God take care of the justice in their case.
- Stand up against prejudice in all forms.–Another way to defeat prejudice is to stand up against it in all its forms. For instance, if you see someone post a mean tweet about someone or a group of people, gently but very firmly rebuke that person. I would personally say something like, “That is not true. Saying [name mean thing that they are saying in general terms], will not change anything. Please stop it! ” OR if you feel too upset to say anything civil, report that post to the proper authorities. If you see or hear someone ridiculing, for example, someone who is disabled or otherwise different in some way, stand up to the offender and/or tell them to “Stop it.” very firmly in an authoritative kind of voice. If they don’t or they escalate or make excuses for their behavior, report them to the proper authorities. If a person or persons voicing prejudicial or hate-filled views is coming to your workplace or school, protest against them, but do so peacefully, otherwise, your message won’t be taken seriously by anyone and you will be cast as similar to the hate-filled people.
These are just some things you can do to defeat prejudice in all its forms. We must conquer hate-filled hearts with a message of love and hope for all people, not just ones that are similar to us in some way. We also must be vigilant to conquer against any hate lurking in our own hearts and lives and eradicate it immediately. What other things do YOU think can be done to combat prejudice? Who can YOU love today?
I will admit straight out…I don’t understand racists and other people who are prejudiced against people’s differences, especially that which the target people cannot control, such as the color of their skin. And wouldn’t the world be so boring if everyone were exactly the same? I think so, and that’s one of the reasons I love interacting with others so much (though I do need some alone time sometimes), because I enjoy learning about diverse opinions, beliefs, cultures and lifestyles.
There are many benefits to diversity in the human race. Here are just some of them:
- Diversity makes the world a more interesting place to live.–Face it. If everyone were the same as you (or me), it would not only be scary, but incredibly boring and pointless as well. For instance, many of my friends love olives. I hate olives! If everyone liked olives, then there would be no olives left! Conversely, if like me, everyone hated olives, all the olives would eventually rot and be useless to everyone! Also, if everyone were like you and thought like you, how would anyone learn anything new? You wouldn’t really be able to learn much. Diversity allows for a more interesting and growing world.
- With that, diversity allows us to increase our knowledge. —I think God made different kinds of people and nations, with different tastes and opinions, so we could learn more about the world He created and give Him the glory. He also wanted us to have deep, meaningful relationships and learn from one another. Think about how much we have learned from all of the people we have ever met! It would be more than the bandwidth that this blog website could ever hold! Even if I shared with readers how much I have learned from diverse people in my life with differing opinions would probably not be able to be all encompassing!
- Diversity helps us to appreciate what we have been given ourselves.-–If we were all the same, we would not be able to really see how much has been given to us because we would not really have another frame of reference, for which to compare ourselves. Talking with and learning about people from differing backgrounds and who went through difficult (often more difficult) life experiences helps us to treasure our lives more. We not only appreciate what we’ve been given but we are also able to understand and appreciate other people and their experiences more.
- Diversity helps us serve others better.--When we are able to empathize and/or understand other people who are different than us, we will be more able to be equipped to help others who need it. For instance, if you understand a certain culture or sector of society better, you will know where they are coming from, why they do things a certain way, and are able to basically relate to them more effectively and on a deeper level, than if you don’t know or understand them at all. For another example, if you understand the challenges of being poor or disabled, you are more likely to be met with openness and grace, than if you just judged against them or couldn’t relate to them at all.
As one can see, there are many benefits to diversity. This is why when people are prejudiced against or don’t value diversity at all, we need to call them out on it. Prejudice is harmful not only because it hampers our relationship with others, but it also closes the door to true knowledge and wisdom, and makes the world seem pointless and boring. Yes, you can and should embrace similarities in the midst of these differences, but we should also value and appreciate differences by loving people and the diversity they bring with them.