Too much conflict in today’s world? Yes!
It stems from what I call “Different-ism” — that is–
Assuming and expecting worse, or the worst, from someone based on an obvious difference. Judging according to what we see or hear on the surface, without going deeper to find out what that person is really like. Negative stereotypes both drive and derive from differentism.
“Differentism” shows up in statements like “You/those (fill in the blank) are all alike!”, when referring to those in different categories than ourselves.
Such differences include, but are not limited to:
–appearance– hairstyle, clothing-style, etc.
–cultural background and customs
–speech—accent; terminology; etc.
–evident personality—“loud” vs. “soft”, extrovert vs. introvert, open vs. reserved, etc.
Here are some examples:
–A black man enters an elevator at a nice hotel and the “white” women all back away from him in fear.
–An older “white” person says they write hip-hop/rap songs and young people laugh in disbelief.
–A woman dresses well, applies make-up, and has “perfect” hair and the “down-home” folks assume she’s too “stuck up” to approach.
–A comfortably-dressed, simple-styled, woman goes largely unnoticed by fashionable ladies at a retreat until she takes the podium as the main speaker.
–A man works with his hands in a trade and PhD holders can’t believe he writes and sings philosophical songs.
–A Millennial comes in for an interview with a Baby Boomer HR manager—the manager thinks “Oh no, here’s another irresponsible Millennial!”
–Meanwhile, the Millennial sizes up the manager and decides, “These guys don’t get it when it comes to authentic relationships. They only value people for what they can get out of them!”
–The company introverts are labeled “arrogant” by the extroverts, while the introverts are sure those extroverts are “shallow”.
The list goes on. And somewhere along the line, at least once, we’re all “busted”! None of us are exempt. We’ve either judged or been judged by “different-ism”. When we come face to face with it, we can–
~try to deny it
~”solve” it by avoiding those who are different
~actively change or work for change
The question is—what does the Lord want us to do with it? Conviction and repentance are two solid foundations to build on. So is changing, which is the fruit of true repentance. But how can we do that?
Here are biblical recommendations on how to respond to “different-ism” and eradicate it from our own hearts:
1. Don’t make the same mistake Nathanael did, when Philip told him about Jesus, and Nathanael declared, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?!” 1:46
Good can and does come out of all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds. Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan to Jewish people who assumed the worst, in order to correct their thinking. (Luke 10:25-37) No matter the ‘hood, we can find some good!
2. Remember—Different isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s just—different. Those who are different from us may do and think wrong things, but then so do we!
Every culture and ethnicity bears God’s image, because we are all made in His image (Gen. 1:27). Likewise, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom. 3:23
3. Approach differences as an opportunity to learn from each other, and as potential strengths we don’t have, but need. The best teams consist of people with various personality types and skill-sets, in order to fill every role the best way possible.
Otherwise a team may have “too many chiefs and not enough Indians”, all visionaries and no detail-oriented administrators, etc.
This is why bodies have many parts and people have different gifts—“For the body does not consist of one member, but of many…There are many part, yet one body…” 1 Cor. 12:14-26
4. Approach differences as something enriching. Everyone loves rainbows and bouquets. Most people like fruit salad and vegetable salad with at least three ingredients. Why? The VARIETY of colors, shapes, fragrances, tastes, nutrients, make these all so much more delightful and valuable to us!
Baskin Robbins would never have become famous offering “ONE flavor!” And who wants to go to a zoo with only one kind of animal in it?
Apply this to people. Yeah, things can get pretty zooey when we combine different cultures, backgrounds, and personalities in the same room, team, or home. But take advantage of the variety!
Differences don’t divide us. “Different-ism” does. But it doesn’t have to if we recognize and deal with it properly.