Where’d you go to high school?”
If you’ve been in St. Louis long, you have likely heard it. You may even have asked it. Few other places in the country have such a loaded ice-breaker question.
Contained in those six words is a goal of “figuring” a person out without asking a more judgmental question. But at its root, there really is a good bit of judgement. It’s trying to determine if we think we’ll get along well with that person. Are we a “match”?
It’s asking if a person is rich or poor, catholic or protestant, city or country, white collar or blue, friend or foe. Somehow, we fall for it. We believe we can get a good sense of a person from this one ridiculous question.
Even if you aren’t from St. Louis and haven’t had to deal with this question, you can probably relate to some degree. If you slow down for a moment you can probably think of a few ways that you tend to size people up. Maybe it’s at work, maybe it’s when you see the moving truck pull up next door, maybe it’s in the moment you encounter that terrible driver. We really don’t have to think too long to realize that we all have some significant implicit biases.
“We really don’t have to think too long to realize that we all have some significant implicit biases.”
Somehow though, most of us rarely pause to consider that we carry this bias with us in our day-to-day lives. The burn is slow, but our bias and favoritism slowly poison us and the world around us. Have you ever considered what happens when we live out of a life of untreated bias? Our world becomes smaller as we surround ourselves instinctively with the people we relate best to. We form divides as we move away from those we don’t identify with and surround ourselves with those we do. What’s worse, is that as we remove ourselves from those we deem “unworthy” we remove ourselves from the opportunity to share the beautiful message of hope we have been entrusted with.
Often, we find ourselves buying into a mentality of fear, or worse, judgement. Yet, as Christians we have to deal with our call to unity and care for those that are poor and marginalized. Jesus is very clear that we can’t excuse ourselves out of His expectations for us. Not only are we offered expectations in the Great Judgement in Matthew 25, but we are also given an example of how not to behave in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 where the guys who likely had a good excuse not to step up are called out for their failure.
“The barrier that keeps us from drawing closer to Christ, may well be the same barrier that you have thrown up against others.”
The vision of our faith is one that not only brings us hope and a future, but also can’t be kept to ourselves. Our faith changes us and is trying to break free of the banks we try to contain it within. It was the same force that drove Jesus to step out of Heaven to walk with us. The barrier that keeps us from drawing closer to Christ, may well be the same barrier that you have thrown up against others (knowingly or not). It’s our job to identify it and call it out so that we can continue to grow, not just our walk with our savior, but also our relationships and community.
- What questions do you sometimes ask to try to size people up?
- What is a time you felt that you were judged unfairly?
- Who is someone that you encounter regularly that you have not taken the chance to walk alongside?
What are a couple ways that you can work to battle your implicit biases this week?