The sorrow within her words pierced me.
“They pretend to like me,” she said. “They give me half-hearted hugs. They smile. But when it’s time to share information and help each other, they never call me. When I call, no one replies. I never hear what is happening, until it’s too late. I pitch up and by the time I get there, everyone and everything is gone. I have been left behind. They make me feel like I don’t matter.”
She continued, “I needed to tell you that, Heather. I want you to know my feelings.”
My friend felt shunned, rejected and alone.
Is there any worse feeling on earth?
I’m not so sure.
I believe everyone desires love, appreciation, and to be counted as a person of worth. We need to feel like we belong and that we have purpose.
Unfortunately, we often place an incredible amount of stock in the thoughts and opinions others have about us. We determine if some one really cares about us not only by what they say, but what they really do. We allow others’ opinions to determine our value. We allow their thoughtlessness to impact our self worth. Their actions help us assess whether they are for us or against us. As a result, my friend’s increasing insecurity and distrust of her community served as the catalyst to discontinue her relationship with them.
And she wanted me to know.
Favoritism wounds the soul. Its divisive effects of bias and prejudice exist in every country, in every people group, in every social class, according to wealth, faith, status, intelligence, or appearance, by educational experience, and among every age group. Whenever we choose some one over some one else and deny them dignity, respect and love, casualties abound. We fail to develop a culture of trust.
Favoritism significantly harms the human psyche. The unfavorable often embark on a dissatisfying quest for belonging and validation. They may develop defense mechanisms to protect themselves from rejection and disappointment. An unfortunate outcome often occurs, as in the situation with my friend; who chose to close her heart to others and establish distance both emotionally and physically. Favoritism causes anger and resentment to take root in the heart as well. Insecurity, inadequacy, loneliness and depression may all manifest themselves due to the injurious effects of favoritism.
This is why James writes that favoritism should have no place in the body of Christ.
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? New International Version, James 2:1-4
I have felt the sting of rejection. I know what it is like to not be the favored one. I have also witnessed the rejection of my children – and that is especially painful.
I bet you have experienced the harmful effects of favoritism, too.
Our Savior did.
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. New International Version, Isaiah 53:3
If anyone would empathize with our suffering and distress as a result of being cast aside by favoritism, it is Jesus. Betrayed, forsaken, and condemned to death, there is no one better to understand favoritism’s shame. And this is why we as believers must decide to embrace and love others – even those that may be different in appearance or behavior, those that may be undeserving, those that may be difficult to be around, or those that have different values or beliefs than ourselves. Jesus Christ showed no favoritism and nor should his followers.
So why on earth does favoritism occur – if it’s so harmful, so shaming, and so divisive?
Favoritism results when we form judgments and biases based upon our own self-centered motives and criteria. To be honest, it is easier to be with people and to help people who look like, act like, and believe like we do. Unfortunately, we often fail to see others as our God sees them. We fail to love as our God loves.
But we shouldn’t.
Favoritism is incongruent with the character of God. We are all equal before Him. In Ephesians 6:9, Paul writes in the context of slaves and masters, but his words count today for us as well, “And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.”
In Colossians 3:25, Paul emphasizes that in Christ, “… there is no favoritism.”
So what do we do?
It’s so easy to be partial. It’s so easy to have favorites. It’s too easy to show prejudice. And honestly, it is something I must especially guard myself from, in my work as a missionary in southern Africa. Jealousy erupts into a raging fire of resentment with any hint or spark of favoritism.
For me, it comes down to the Golden Rule: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. New International Version: Matthew 7:12
It is not a matter of treating everyone the same. We cannot logistically do that. We are all different and unique.
It is a matter of treating everyone with love, respect and dignity regardless of who they are, what they do, or what they believe.
This is the critical heart attitude we each need to address the all too common problem of favoritism. This is what my friend needed from her community.
If we don’t get this right, then we, as Christ followers, will have no real impact in living out the love of Christ with those in our sphere of influence and earning their trust.
My friend called me because she was hurt. She needed some one to listen. Ultimately, she has a choice in how to go forward in her community and do what others were not able to do with her. It is my prayer that she will heed the words of Jesus and love and forgive…
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. New International Version, John 13:4.
This is the only way to living a life free of favoritism. It starts with my friend and it starts with me. Will you join us?
Image retrieved from DonnaRiedland.com