I’m sitting here today thinking about people. We –people, that is — spend a lot of time differentiating ourselves from others. I am older than you. You are taller than me. He is smarter. She is prettier. They are richer. We are whiter. You are conservative. I am liberal. He is straight. She is gay. We are continually looking for differences and trying to find a way to situate ourselves amid the masses.
It’s identity formation and clarification. That’s all. It’s a natural part of our development. It starts when we are young and, from what I can tell, it never stops.
I remember being a young girl and wanting to find friends who were just like me. I wanted friends who enjoyed the same toys, the same music, and the same choices in clothing. I found them! They affirmed me! They liked what I liked. We had fun together! We enjoyed each other. That was fine.
Later when I went away to college, I discovered many people who were very different from me. I didn’t understand them, and, at my loss, I mostly stayed away from them. I continued to seek sameness and found security in hanging out with people who, for the most part, shared my values, my upbringing, my appearance, and my interests.
As I entered my professional life, I found myself thrust among people who were very different than me. My students and coworkers were from different backgrounds — racially, financially, spiritually, and culturally. I didn’t have an option any longer to ‘stick to my own kind’. I had to mingle.
Let me tell you what mingling has done for me — it has changed me. Over the past couple of decades I have rubbed shoulders with all kinds of people. They have challenged my thinking about almost every topic on earth. I have questioned my opinions on politics, education, religion, faith, sexuality, marriage, parenthood, finances, music, television, literature, media, law enforcement, and many other topics because of my relationships with people who are different from me.
No, I’m not wishy-washy. In fact, I’m pretty hard-headed. I don’t change easily. But questioning my opinions has sharpened me. Questioning my opinions has made me address some internal bias. Questioning my opinions has pushed me to seek God and his wisdom.
Here’s what I know: We were not all created the same. God is creative — He made all kinds of people. And here’s the thing, He never classified any human as greater than another – with the exception of Christ himself. He didn’t say thinner was better than fatter. He didn’t say richer was better than poorer. He didn’t say male was better than female, or even, (gasp), that Republican was better than Democrat. He created all things good — snakes and elephants, oceans and swamps, men and women, Asian and Hispanic, and on and on.
I, for one, have had to get off my high horse and admit that I am no better than another. I have also had to scrape myself out of the gutter and say I am not less than any other.
I have had to remind myself that the most annoying student I work with is a child of God just as much as my most treasured friend is. I have had to learn that my viewpoint is not the only viewpoint. I have had to look through someone else’s glasses, even if I haven’t walked a mile in his shoes.
It’s not easy and it’s never done. Just today I judged someone because I deemed him ‘spoiled and privileged.’ From my point of view, he is. From someone else’s point of view, I am the one who is spoiled and privileged.
To be honest, I don’t know that other person’s story, just like they likely don’t know all of mine. I am imagining we could each learn a thing or two from one another.
We are not all the same, thank God. We are, however, all loved by God.
For God so loved [every single person in] the world,
that He gave His only Son…