I am no better…

I don’t think it’s a secret that I feel quite strongly on the subject of being ethnically and culturally reconciled to one another.

At work, I co-lead a group that talks about racism. Sometimes when we are in discussion, someone will make a joke that exposes some other form of prejudice – many times the joke will come at the expense of the poor or someone of a different denomination or someone of a different gender or age than their own – as if race and ethnicity were the only areas in which we felt a temptation to feel superior to another.

Nay, my friend. Superiority is a disease. It’s a chronic, lifelong illness that plagues me and most every member of humanity daily.

I’m particularly observant and sensitive to it lately, because Jesus.

I have spent most of my adult life surrounded by people of a different ethnicity and denomination from those in which I was raised. I’ve learned to navigate and become quite fluent in the predominantly non-Hispanic White Baptist/Presbyterian/Reformed language and culture. Having grown up in a predominantly Hispanic Pentecostal environment, this experience has been enriching and highly beneficial for me, not because one is better than the other (although because of the aforementioned illness, I definitely had those thoughts), but because, after some time of struggle, it exposed my cultural blind spots and caused me to hold on tighter to the sure thing – Jesus, and how He expresses Himself through the various cultures.

As an ethnic minority, I see and experience those blind spots from the majority culture who haven’t had the same opportunity I have. I see their superiority expressed, as their own blind spots haven’t been made known.

Yet, I realize how EASY it is to feel superior to another who feels superior. Sticky, isn’t it?

Oh, and it doesn’t come close to stopping there. I have never experienced poverty. How easy would it me to judge the poor, the homeless, and the jobless? I’d like to think I know their story. Every person has one – a complex road that led him or her to where they are today. It’s much easier to judge someone based on the narrative I think I know. This way I can now lift myself up on my own merit – on how hardworking and ambitious I am. How easy would it be? Well, sorry to disappoint. I’ve done it. Many times…and there’s much more.

Oh, how I’d love to judge the woman who felt no other option was available to her other than an abortion, when I’ve always had the support of my family.

How many times would I love to say “I would NEVER…”?

I could go on, but I don’t want to bore you. I’m as sick as you are, maybe even sicker, and I know people don’t like to hear other people go on and on about their ailments.

So when you feel that symptom of superiority creep up on you, which starts in the brain and then moves on to the tongue, I recommend silence and prayer and then a kind and graceful word as Jesus continues the work of revealing your blind spots.

“It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this I-know-better-than-you mentality again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your own part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.”

THE MESSAGE Luke 6:41-42