There’s a great book, a classic, called Pride & Prejudice written by Jane Austen in the 1800s which has been made into various film adaptations. Although written during a different era, it’s message is still very relevant today. In the book, we encounter characters who make decisions (some very hasty) based on their own initial judgments & prejudices and how others appear initially to influence them.
The initial title for the book was apparently “First Impressions”.
We all make first impressions. When I started my first job in sales, I was always taught that you only had one chance to make a first impression on the customer so make it a good one. No pressure!!!
People make first impressions on us. There are lots of factors which can influence our first impression of someone and prejudice is one of those influences we need to recognise and if it’s there then choose to reject.
So I’ve been giving this topic of prejudice some thought. Do I really understand what it means to be prejudiced and do I harbour any prejudices in my own heart.
When I think of the word “prejudice” I think of pre-judging – my mind has already reached a conclusion – it’s judged a person or situation already without really knowing the truth.
It’s so easy to make snap decisions or judgments based on our “eyes” – what we initially see or by what we hear (which can unfortunately include hearsay), but discerning whether those arise from prejudice in our hearts is sometimes difficult to recognise unless it’s pretty obvious.
The dictionary defines “prejudice” as a “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.”
Sometimes, it is easy to recognise prejudice – it makes no effort to hide itself. I worked with a lady once who had a racial prejudice which was from ignorance and lack of relationships and experience of different cultures. She didn’t hide this prejudice and we had some very uncomfortable and difficult conversations about it. She couldn’t recognise the problem however.
When she was very ill in hospital with cancer, I went to visit her and the first thing she did was introduce me to her “new friend” who just happened to be a person of race that she had harboured great prejudice against previously.
I discovered that my friend had been placed in a hospital room for two. Initially, she was very unhappy with the arrangement – her prejudice influenced her first impressions of her room mate. However as they started to talk she discovered they had lots in common. She also experienced such great kindness and compassion from her new friend and his family whilst she was so ill that her eyes were opened to the truth and her prejudices disappeared. Her first impressions were changed.
My friend was truly sorry for the years that she had allowed this prejudice to rob her of forming friendships and relationships with people of other cultures and races and for the wrong things she had thought, said and done.
Sadly my friend died not many weeks after her stay in hospital but I’m truly grateful that before she died she had the opportunity to discover truth not prejudice. God works in amazing and gracious ways to bring us into truth.
The Lord knows that we as humans have a tendency to be swayed by our first impressions which is why he showed us that God isn’t influenced by those things.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
I wonder what our first impressions of Jesus would have been? Isaiah the Prophet said this about him.
“For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.”
From these verses it would seem that Jesus would not have initially drawn people to him through his appearance. It was his teachings, his character and his good works. He showed great compassion and love which drew people. His words of wisdom and understanding would have been like precious jewels.
James gives us good advice in these bible verses because prejudice can lead to favouritism.
“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”
So my prayer this week is that the Lord will help me identify any prejudice in my heart and show me what influences my first impressions. May it be Godly discernment and wisdom with eyes of love which are not blinkered or blind. Eyes and ears that see the heart and character of a person not influenced by outward appearance.
Have a blessed week my friends.