Coming face-to-face with our own bias and prejudice is just… icky. It’s a moment of reckoning: “oh my goodness, I really am this sinful.”
But it is exactly this discomfort, this temptation to flee what we’ve seen, that is the root of change. Because to change biases we must confront them, and we can’t confront what we don’t see. I want to tell the story of exactly this: a recent experience that exposed my own unconscious bias. At first, I was furiously disappointed with the state of my heart, but God used that rending to rebuild. Here is that story.
New Friends, New Awareness
Earlier this year I began attending a new fellowship group. The first day I walked in, I saw some ladies that looked like my “typical” friend type, but many that did not. “This is good, I can do this, I want to do this” I thought.
But when the women in my break-out group appeared not to have much in common with me, I panicked. And I started to judge. And my shameful thoughts went something like this:
“Uggg. How did I end up here? Those sweatshirts are so worn out and…did they really come with dirty hair? They clearly have more in common with each other than I do. And I can tell they’re going to be the ones that talk the whole time and not let anyone else get a word in.”
And the worst thought was this:
“Their opinions are not valuable.”
In just a split second, less than a heartbeat, my external observations had led to blanket judgments, which had in turn led to the most devastating consequence of our prejudice: dehumanization.
I had decided what these ladies brought to the table wasn’t valuable because their appearance, and socioeconomic status (SES), was less than mine. Dehumanization. Prejudice. Horrified by these thoughts, I began to talk to them:
“Ok, Crisanne. You say you want to break down barriers. You say you want to expand your circle beyond people of your same race and SES. So, you’ve got an opportunity right now to let the rubber meet the road. Are you really going to sit here and dehumanize? Or are you going to take it?”
I took it. I decided that I was going to interact with the women, not just smile and nod. I determined that what they said was valuable because they were fully human, made in the image of God. I decided to lean into their experience and not write them off. I prayed, “Lord, I repent of my sinfulness, help me learn from the hearts of these other women.”
And, in that moment of reckoning, I was broken and healed. I’d been brought before a wall of prejudice that I didn’t know was erect. I had the choice to kick it down or turn back towards comfortable thought patterns. And, let me tell you this. The kicking down, although completely invisible from the outside, was monumental from the inside. I felt that wall fall; I felt the emergence from repentance into new territory. I learned a lot about the other women in my group. I came face-to-face with experiences that challenged the gaps in my own. And I was so grateful for that teensy little step towards living a more authentically just life.
From One Broken Vessel to Another
I struggled with writing this because this is not meant to be a, “wow, look at me overcoming!” type of story. That’s not the point. The point is, despite our best intentions, we all have biases. We are blind to them and we need the Lord to lay them bare. He is so able and so faithful to honor that request. But we must be vessels that are willing to see what we don’t want to see and break in places we don’t want to break.
God works with broken vessels. He is the potter shaping the clay and putting it back together. And the more we are willingly broken the more he can use us. There is an unbelievably large and hurting world waiting for people to step down from their pride and into the mess. God is there in the mess, redeeming it. We are his redeemed workmanship working towards this beautiful vision of a whole, redeemed creation.
This is a vision that keeps me going and a vision that reminds me to be broken by my sin. Will you pray today to be broken of your own blind spots? And step forward into what God has prepared next? We can be assured that he has prepared good things for those who love him, who have been called by his glory.
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