Everyone is prejudiced in some way. If two people offered to babysit my children and one was a known sex offender, I would choose the other with little thought. This is discrimination, no question. But it would be one that any loving parent would make. If someone asked me to go to a bar, I would refuse. I'm prejudiced against the atmosphere and influence that a bar has.
Since we all have these prejudices, we need to govern them. It is the governing of our bias and prejudices that is so important in our relationships and to function correctly in society.
Here are two principles that you may want to consider in governing your prejudices and discrimination.
DISCRIMINATE ABOUT SOMEONE'S INFLUENCE NOT THEIR PERSONALITY
Using the illustration of the sex offender, it isn't the personality that I discriminate against, but rather the influence and values such an individual will have in my family.
Long ago, I worked in a factory near Chicago. Some of my coworkers there once asked me to go the bar with them. I refused. Not because I didn't like them, or thought they were evil and wicked. I refused because of the influence such a place would have on me. In the work environment, we got along famously. I just couldn't go with them to the bar.
In dealing with people and relationships, judge it by the influence on you and those around you. Don't judge personalities. A man in Bible College rubbed me the wrong way with his personality. For a solid year, I discriminated against him due to this one thing that he had done. Eventually, we were forced to work together and became good friends. This could have happened a lot sooner if I hadn't discriminated against his personality.
Values will often determine the influence. Since I pastor a Church, I won't ever hire an atheist to fulfill a Church position. Our value systems will be so different that it will build a tense and uncomfortable working environment.
DISCRIMINATE ABOUT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY NOT YOUR ASSISTANCE
I must make many of my decisions based on my position as a Pastor, as a husband, as a Christian, and as a father. These decisions are sometimes discriminatory in nature. I have certain responsibilities and duties that these positions demand I see to.
I won't be alone with a woman unless it is my wife. That is discrimination and prejudice. But then I married one particular woman and made certain vows and promises to her. These responsibilities mean that I will sometimes discriminate in order to fulfill my duties.
An ambassador must seek the best interests of the country he represents. This is his responsibility. His prejudices lie with his home country. This is the way it ought to be. He will seek to get the best circumstances in a negotiation as he can. It is not his job to be fair. I don't seek to be fair in my time with other women or other children. I have responsibilities to my own.
But, to refuse aid and assistance to someone just because you don't like them is wrong. I don't look at someone and judge if they are worthy of my aid or care. God said to love our enemies.
If someone asks me for money to help with a need, I don't determine if I will or won't help based on the asker. Rather, I will look to see if by doing so, I will be unable to fulfill a responsibility. If the amount asked for will prevent me from caring for my family, I may refuse. However, I don't make my determination on who asks, or how they look, or if they can return the favor or not.
An employer may have to chose the most capable person for a job and discriminate against those less able. He has a responsibility to his company and mission. He shouldn't make that decision based on the person's skin color or other factor that does not impair that persons' ability to do the required job.
As a Pastor, I may not hire an atheist because his values would impair his ability to work with me in a ministry dedicated to God, but I would stop and help him change a tire or give him food when he is hungry.
Love ought to be indiscriminate.
Greg S. Baker is a Pastor, Counselor, and Author specializing in building and strengthening relationships.
For more books and resources on how to communicate better, express yourself, and strengthen social skills. Check out our book, 'Fitly Spoken', a Christian based book that explores the intricacies of human communication and expression in relationships.