3 Ways to Deal with Discrimination at Work

Discrimination. It’s crazy how crippling it can be.

One second you’re without a care in the world, the next you’re face-to-face with fear confirmed – a vain anxiety now a realized struggle. Perhaps you’ve wondered how to deal with price and prejudices outside your control, at work, political arenas or even in church. If so, permit me to share some guidance on ways we can overcome, specifically when we’re on the clock.

For while discrimination can happen anytime, anywhere, it’s often in the melting pots of life we find our faith and character challenged to the point of maturation.

With this in mind, let’s dive in…

1. Accept the Little Kid Within

This may seem like an odd place to start, but here me out.  When we consider the context of Matthew 18 where Jesus is previewing the local church, note his response to the opening question in v. 1:

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (v. 3-4, ESV)

Essentially, Jesus is saying the key to living the Kingdom is Christ’s bottom line for community: become like children.  Our intent may be good, our efforts may be efficient, but if our attitude isn’t one of childlike awe and innocence, our walk with God will become misdirected. You see, the disciples at this point were thinking like the world. They didn’t see the ‘greatest’ as a humble kid free of value judgments, offense, manipulation, and selective disclosure. Rather, they saw the ‘greatest’ like anyone else – through the lens of power, success, money, and reputation. So you can imagine the confusion the disciples must have felt when Jesus responded in contrast:

Unless you repent [that is, change your inner self—your old way of thinking, live changed lives] and become like children [trusting, humble, and forgiving], you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.“ (AMP)

Again, Jesus is not only foreshadowing a key community goal, but emphasizing the Kingdom definition of success as how we treat people. If we’re to impact a culture in which everyone is loved, we should be motivated to walk in honesty, to honor and serve one another as opposed to offend or condemn.

Unfortunately, in a fallen world, there are many who tolerate the contrary (i.e. unbelief, negativity, bitterness, shame, withdrawal, etc.) and it’s here we must calibrate our expectations. Whether one is a child in flesh, emotion, or in spirit, our call is to receive in love while leaning on God’s understanding. In this way, whatever hate lies within can be appropriated to the right place (i.e. the sin and principalities involved).

Bottom line: If we’re to justly deal with discrimination, we must accept the child within. Even if the other side is lost, feeling insignificant, or behaving like an enemy, by giving agape love (i.e. love that works it out) and forgiveness a chance, we preserve the peace-making, bridge-building strategies of God.

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2. Stay the Little Kid Within

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m caught in nostalgia, I can’t help but notice how fast it comes and goes. Like a child in awe, the wonder is deep, the impression is evident, but the moment is often fleeting. The question is: If we’re to become like children, how do we stay like children?

The answer in one word? Consistency.

As John points out in 1 John 21, what we lack as literal kids we learn through maturation and conforming to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action; however, in order to experience this, we must daily aim to discover God by habitually keeping focus on what allows us to yield to Him.

Consider the habitual/customary relationship in v. 3-5 and v. 9-11:

“And this is how we know [daily, by experience] that we have come to know Him [to be more deeply acquainted with Him]: if we habitually keep [focused on His precepts and obey] His commandments. Whoever says, “I have come to know Him,” but does not habitually keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth [of the divine word] is not in him. But whoever habitually keeps His word and obeys His precepts [and treasures His message in its entirety], in him the love of God has truly been perfected [it is completed and has reached maturity]. By this we know [for certain] that we are in Him. The one who says he is in the Light and yet habitually hates (works against) his brother [in Christ] is in the darkness until now. The one who loves and unselfishly seeks the best for his [believing] brother lives in the Light, and in him there is no occasion for stumbling or offense [he does not hurt the cause of Christ or lead others to sin]. But the one who habitually hates (works against) his brother is in [spiritual] darkness and is walking in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (AMP)

While this passage may seem repetitious, I love what John is doing here.  A master of audience, John knew his readers were not only professing Christians, but believers who valued custom as worship and fellowship with Christ as habitually abiding2. Accordingly, John emphasizes a reality view centered on daily partnership through obedience knowing these ‘little children’ (v. 1) would see the call as something more than surrender, but life itself!

As for us, if we’re to understand consistency in the face of discrimination and in the context of abiding like children, we must embrace Christ as our daily interceding advocate. For it’s when we reference Christ as our champion that we center the Cross in our minds treasuring truth in community. After all, if we’re to be like Jesus, we must be in him, rooted in and knit to Him as the promise keeper He is:

As for you, the anointing [the special gift, the preparation] which you received from Him remains [permanently] in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you. But just as His anointing teaches you [giving you insight through the presence of the Holy Spirit] about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as His anointing has taught you, you must remain in Him [being rooted in Him, knit to Him].” (v.27, AMP)

Bottom line: Regardless if we’re dealing with discrimination at work, our default response should know no offense. Yet, in order to lack offense, we must first choose consistent fellowship with Christ, trust His unfolding purposes in others, and allow His love to perfect as we habitually seek His highest. This is how we stay the little kid within.

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3. See the Little Kid Within

As a parlay from the points above, I’ll keep this short and sweet. If our aim is to trust God in childlike faith and ‘Abba Father’ reliance, we must also aim to see the same potential in others. Granted, easier said than done as the presence of God is the only power that can mature a child-like…anything.

But as a body pursuing the best of God, we must also believe the best of Him even if it hasn’t happened yet. And what better place to practice this than with our comrades at work?

In my experience, I’ve found one of the most basic yet transformational attitudes is imagining lost people found. To consider what they may be like, the changes in demeanor, behavior, communication, work ethic, character, etc. Seriously, wouldn’t it be wild if more believers entered into this type of rest? What palpable peace we’d sense substituting the disappointments of what we can’t change with a belief in who can. What anxiety we’d release imagining change in others as change going to happen, not could happen. Embracing this perspective, would we not see the little kid within, even if they were treating us poorly?

Perhaps not at first; however, given a child doesn’t discriminate or manipulate3, one must wonder if offense would pale in the light of safe honesty4. True, as adults, we may not think like children, but we can certainly be more open to grace when we take no offense like them.

Bottom line: As little children, believe in what you’ve been given for others. Dare to apply the ‘Hope may have it, but faith will have it’ mentality to how you view and treat your colleagues, subordinates, and superiors at work.

Remember…

1) Don’t just think positive thoughts in a vacuum, but extend them to those who persecute and condemn you.

2) Christ in you…

tenor

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Interestingly, I stumbled upon this passage by researching the word ‘consistency’ which led to this as the sole result.
  2. In His teachings
  3. Depends on age, but in this case we’re talking children young enough to not know how to cunningly exploit
  4. Though they do judge poorly
Photo creds: Pixabay

 

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