That’s the name of a story I read recently by author, Mary Beckwith.
As the story goes, the little boy found a ladybug and was studying it quite intently. The Mother heard him say, “it must be a gentleman bug“. Questioning him as to why he seemed to know the opposite of “lady” was “gentleman”his response was, “Because he’s smart.” Mom wondered where he’d gotten the idea that gentleman were smart and ladies weren’t. She wondered if she or the child’s father had said something to have encouraged the child to reason that way. The only thing the Mother could think of was that she often said to the child, “We’ll have to ask Daddy when he comes home.”
As I read this little episode it caused me to question how prejudice and bias enters our lives.
What causes us to judge others; because of gender, color, wealth, good looks, or education? (Too much or too little of one or the other..)
I began to see that when we show partiality and prejudice, we are setting examples for our children..I am so thankful we have a heavenly Father who is no divider of persons, He loves each one of us the same.
He desires that we in turn love one another with the same kind of love.
When I’m reminded of His unconditional and steadfast love, it helps me fight against the prejudice that tries to creep in and distort my conception of others.
Many years ago one of our sons, at the age of six, was circling toys in a catalogue that he would like to have for Christmas. He brought the book to me and pointed at an Easy Bake Oven. (Remember them?)
He asked me, “Is this for a boy or a girl?” I told him, “If you like it, circle it.”
I was taken by surprise. At the tender age of six, he was afraid to say he liked something if someone would think the thing he liked was a “girl’s toy”.
We bought him the Easy Bake Oven that year, even though within a few months it was abandoned as a toy.
It’s now 50 years later and I haven’t forgotten the importance of his six year old question. “Is it ok for me to like that?”
For today’s young people, the question may be “Is it ok for Susie to want to pursue a degree in engineering?” “Is it ok for Kevin to want to be a nurse?”
At the tender age of 6 our child was already concerned with what the “world” would think of him. And to be tagged as playing with a “girl’s” toy was unthinkable. And that was 50 years ago. A sad commentary on a child’s world nestled within our adult world of prejudiced attitudes.
Attitudes are readily available to aid or detract from the forming of a child’s dreams and goals in life.
In 1952, a movie was made of the life story of a gifted writer of fairy tales. His name was Hans Christian Anderson, and this movie was a musical. The part of Anderson was played by a wonderful actor of the time, Danny Kaye.
One of the songs that was sung, based on a children’s story that Anderson had written, was called “The Ugly Duckling”. That song, and Kay’s unique rendition of it kept running through my mind as I prepared this article.
It was about…Prejudice…
I decided to investigate some of the facts about Hans Christian Anderson himself. This is what I found.
Anderson was raised in a Christian home by loving parents. He was known to be a gifted writer at an early age. The boy had a beautiful but very high voice until he was in his teens. He was an exceedingly homely young man at the age of 12. (He grew to be 6’1″).
Anderson didn’t fit society’s requirements for a 12 year old boy. Children his own age didn’t accept him, nor did the adults in his community. He was ridiculed and laughed at by the town people, although loved and nurtured at home.
I suspect the story about an Ugly Duckling is a reflection of his youth and the realization of his true worth as a grown man.
It’s apparent to me, that even the natural world of animals and birds has prejudice. But their prejudice is instinctive. Perhaps ours is also. But God has given us the ability to choose between our natural instincts and living our lives with the Spirit of Christ in our hearts.
Several years ago, I was privileged to hear a musical performed by the Roscommon County Christian Choir. The name of the presentation was “One Incredible Moment”. And that moment was when God came to our world in the form of a human, a baby boy, and that baby was named Jesus.
As I listened to this beautiful performance, I found myself wondering, when did the prejudice creep in?
No one seemed too upset by the event of that birth, except perhaps for King Herod. He would tolerate no intrusion on his power as ruler. So he proposed to have all the male children from birth to the age of 2, destroyed. He had them put to death.
The shepherds were pleased when the angel informed them of a child’s birth. They were told the he was to be found in a lowly stable in Bethlehem. The angel’s announcement to them on the hillside sent them joyously on their way to see the child who would be the Savior of the world.
No prejudice there.
And the Wise Men were willing to journey for two long years to find and worship a baby, an infant, a child.
No prejudice here.
Then, when Jesus was 12 years old, he went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When his parents arrived home, and discovered Jesus was not with them, they went back to Jerusalem and found him in the temple listening to the great teachers. He was asking them questions. The teachers didn’t seem to mind the presence of this young child. They didn’t mind his questions.
No one minded that this carpenter’s child sat among the learned scholars in the temple. No one minded that he questioned them. No one minded that Jesus seemed to have a mind and a mission of his own.
WHEN DID THE PREJUDICE CREEP IN?
In the gospel of John, Chapter 1 verse 43, Jesus decides to leave Jerusalem for Galilee. Finding Phillip, he said to him, “Follow me. ” Phillip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.
then Phillip found his friend, Nathaniel and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law. And about whom the prophets also wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph”.
“Nazareth?”, Nathaniel asked, “Can anything good come from there?.
The prejudice seems to be starting to creep in.
I had that same reaction that Nathaniel had several years ago when I questioned a governing board as to why they had selected a local man, a professional person, to accomplish a task at hand. What I said was, (and I’ve thought long and hard about telling you this), “If he’s so good at what he does and so smart about what he knows, why is he doing business in this town instead of in the city where he could make more money?”
I guess there’s no doubt in your mind about where and into whom the prejudice crept in that time, is there?
Much as Phillip did, when Nathaniel asked “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?“, the gentle folk to whom I made that statement said to me..“Why don’t you come and see? This person has valid credentials and you’ll find that his choice of a place to live has nothing to do with his ability to carry out his plan.”
WHY DID THAT PREJUDICE CREEP IN?
Where do our values come from? We listen, speak read, study and decide what to keep and what to throw away. We sort through and accept some things while rejecting others. We trust, believe, and follow something, someone.
Perhaps we think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Perhaps we think by putting others down, we set ourselves higher. Perhaps we don’t think at all.
As children, we absorb much from our families. We speak English because we hear English. If we were brought up in a home where Spanish or Russian was spoken, we would fluently speak those languages. When we speak our prejudices, our children hear and learn to speak our prejudices.
When we speak our faith our children hear and learn our faith, and desire to make it their own.
When we live in our prejudices, our children live their childhood years surround by our prejudices.
When we live our faith, our children live surrounded by the Christian love which our faith in Christ brings into our homes.
WHEN DO THE PREJUDICES CREEP OUT?
We would never have noticed them at all if Jesus hadn’t come to live and to die to show us how wonderfully God loves us. Because of that wonderful gift of God’s grace, sealed in the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, the gift of God’s grace is ours…yours and mine, to accept and to begin to live a new life.
William Barclay, in his commentary, sums it up like this;
“It is not the force of man, but the love of God which alone can unite a disunited world?
When negative ways and attitudes, such as arrogance, contempt, condemnation and destructive thinking are cut off “prejudice’ has no fuel.
We don’t know when the prejudice crept in. We only know prejudice cannot co-exist with the love of Christ in our hearts and minds.
There is a story in the Bible about the woman who cleaned 7 demons out of her house, but she failed to fill her home with something else, and the demons moved back in and brought their friends with them.
It isn’t enough to rid our lives of old and comfortable habits. Hearts, minds and lives filled with the love of Christ have no room for prejudice, arrogance, contempt, nor condemnation.
Our prejudices will turn into love.