Beyond skin color
Today’s contributor reflects on lessons he learned as he prayed about prejudice after moving from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Norway – and how those lessons continue to shape the way he sees others.
I moved from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Norway when I was 13, and one of the first things on my mind was making friends. I would often look up new acquaintances on Facebook and send them a friend request. The problem was, I didn’t exactly know how Facebook worked, so there was one guy I friend-requested several times, not realizing that he had already denied my request twice.
As soon as I figured out what had happened, I felt a lot of emotions: anger, confusion, hurt. I felt like an outsider already, and to have someone act like they didn’t want to be friends with me only made it worse. Was there something wrong with me? Did he not want to be my friend because of where I was from, or because I looked and spoke differently than he did?
After that, I tried to drop it, but it was still bothering me. I didn’t know if I was specifically being discriminated against, but I did know there was an undercurrent in me of feeling unsettled and upset when the situation came to mind.
One day, as I took a study break and went down to the kitchen to get some snacks, this thought came to me: “Christian, what would you do if this person was about to send you a friend request?”
My first thought was, “I’m going to deny his request just so he can feel what it’s like to be rejected!” But just as I heard my own answer, I immediately thought, “Of course you’re not going to do that.” From the very first day we’d lived in Norway, my parents had urged us to look past differences, look past color. We had learned in Christian Science that the true identity of everyone we meet is God’s, divine Spirit’s, child. We have the same creator, who made us as the spiritual expression of Him, also known as divine Mind – which knows nothing about divisions, cultural barriers, or prejudice. God knows us as harmonious and spiritual, not divided mortals. And God is also infinite Love, so in reality we are purely loved and loving; that’s the law of our common Parent.
So I changed my answer. I began thinking of this individual with love. I thought: “As God’s son, he could never harm me; he can only reflect goodness.”
When I got back up to my room, I went on Facebook, and guess who had sent me a friend request? That very person. I was like, What?! I couldn’t believe it. But we did become friends, and to me this experience has been a helpful reminder that there’s a powerful spiritual basis for overcoming discrimination and prejudice and experiencing meaningful relationships with others.
One of the biggest lessons it taught me is that we really are all brothers and sisters. The spiritual reality is that we aren’t material beings divided into separate races and living in separate nations; we all live in God’s kingdom – the kingdom of heaven, which Christ Jesus told us is right here, right now. Prayer to better understand God as the true creator of us all can open our eyes to the presence of this kingdom, helping us realize there are no outsiders. No one is outside good, outside divine Love. It isn’t being of the same race or culture that makes us “in” with others. It’s God. It’s knowing that we are living in God’s kingdom as God’s offspring, because that’s God’s truth. This is a very effective way of combating prejudice, because it starts from the basis of oneness, rather than divisions.
The other helpful lesson I took away from this experience is that discrimination and prejudice disappear as we let God tell us everything we need to know about others. I was able to respond in a loving way to my friend because I listened for God’s loving guidance. God showed me how to view this individual – as my brother, rather than as an enemy.
What if we did this for everyone we met? What if we let God show us the true individuality of each of His ideas – as spiritual, uniquely colorful, and wonderful? We can do this by acknowledging that divine Love is our creator, so each of us must be loved and worthy of love. On this basis, everyone is capable of feeling and expressing love toward one another.
I think of this as an active, ongoing thing. It isn’t just about a prayer here and there when we see prejudice. Instead, it can be about the way we are choosing to see people on a daily basis, and making sure that we are letting God, Love, impel our thoughts and actions.
A version of this article ran in the Q&A series of the Christian Science Sentinel’s online TeenConnect section, Jan. 17, 2018.