On Prejudice

We play favorites from the moment we emerge from the womb.  As babies, we establish primary connections with those nearest and dearest to us, and we’re uneasy with strangers.

As we mature, our challenge is to outgrow the mindset of estrangement.  People differ, so we thrive when we’re curious about them, get to know them, and appreciate their variety.

However, when we’re urged to avoid unfamiliar people and ways of life, prejudices are born.  Some dissipate quickly after we share life experiences with those people.  Without personal contact, prejudices can harden and become pernicious.

San Diego Unitarian Universalist minister, Tom Own-Towle, tells about a friend of his, a conservative man, whose young adult daughter revealed to him that she was a lesbian.  The father was shocked and distraught. In his frustration, he became scornful.  The daughter withdrew, and the two didn’t communicate for months.

But, as his daughter’s next birthday approached, the father felt a change of heart grow within him.  On that day, he took his daughter out to lunch, followed by a long walk together in the woods.

There, he took a deep breath and shared with her, “Susan, what you told me rocked my world.  I just couldn’t accept it, and it’s roiled inside me for months.  I realize now that I can either hang on to that belief or my love for you.  There’s not room in my heart for both.  It’s clear to me that my love for you is much, much stronger than my devotion to that opinion.  You’re my daughter.  You are who you are.  I refuse to forfeit my love for you just to hold on to my judgment.”

As Unitarian Henry David Thoreau once wrote, and members of the Sedona Unitarian Universalist Fellowship agree, “It’s never too late to give up our prejudices.”

[published July 14, 2023]