May 23      

Today's quotation:

Those who are possessed with a prejudice are possessed with a devil, and one of the worst kinds of devils, for it shuts out the truth, and often leads to ruinous error.

Tryon Edwards

Today's Meditation:

It's so hard to live without prejudices.  The word, of course, refers to "pre-judging," our tendency to think that certain people will act in certain ways and do certain things simply because of some trait that they share with others who we also believe do certain things or act in certain ways.  A member of a certain race will act in a certain way because, of course, "all of them act that way."  And they act in ways that we don't like, so therefore we can't like the people, either.  I saw a man with green skin shirking on the job and saying terrible things about someone else, so now when I see someone with green skin, I'm going to know that that person is a lazy worker who says terrible things.

Black people are this, Chinese people are that, Caucasians are these.  Young people have these problems, old people have those, women these and men those.  We like to categorize people because it's easier for us, and we think it protects us in the long run.  But coming up with such silly prejudices helps no one, and actually causes us to make some of the most significant mistakes in our lives.  Because the next green person that I meet may be just the person I need to help me in several ways-- but I'm going to reject that person without ever finding out the great things about him or her because I already "know" that I'm right.

Sometimes, such knowledge is actually helpful.  There are some neighborhoods into which we shouldn't stray because there is actually a strong chance that something bad can happen to us.  And often, the people who live in such neighborhoods belong predominantly to a particular ethnic or racial group.  But the problems in that neighborhood cannot and should not be extended outside of it-- not everyone of that particular ethnicity or race can be judged based on what happens in one small geographic area.  We know something about a place and some people who live in that place-- but that doesn't mean we know anything about others who share the ethnicity, skin color, religion, national origin, or language of the people of that place.

It's easy to prejudge.  We think we know something important, and we want to apply it to people we don't know.  But we really shouldn't do so because it's not fair to the people we're judging, and it's not fair to us.  We want to build an inclusive world, not an exclusive one, and the more prejudice we show, the more exclusion we practice.

Questions to consider:

What benefits do we think prejudices bring to us?

How do we tend to form our prejudices?  Are they helpful or hurtful?

Why do we so often tend to hold on to prejudices even when we see plenty of evidence that they're unfounded?

For further thought:

Too many of our prejudices are like pyramids upside down.  They rest on tiny, trivial incidents, but they spread upward and outward until they fill our minds.

William McChesney Martin

more on prejudice



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