Racism and discrimination are dangerous viruses because they quietly snuggle life out of their victims; not necessarily by killing them, but by deflating their sense of ego, self-esteem, and self-worth. It is because of this that I want to reflect, as a piece of encouragement for our younger ones, on a passage I read, the other day, from the Bible: “You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel” (Micah 5:2).
Notice how Bethlehem was referenced: a town derided, an unknown town, a town too small to be counted among the towns of Judah, a town not to reckon with, a despised town, and yet, it is this town that is destined to produce a king. Remember when God sent Samuel to go and anoint one of the sons of Jesse as king and all his big and handsome sons came out and none was chosen. Chosen was the little shepherd-boy who was in the field with the sheep, whom everybody thought of as a nobody, the unrecognized, the least thought of, and yet Samuel would have this to say: “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives” (1 Sam 16:11). Remember when Gideon, because of his history and heritage, told the angel of the Lord, “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” but the angel said to him, “[No], you are a mighty warrior”, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel” (Judges 6:1-11).
It is so easy to be clouded by who people think we are and not who God thinks I am. We tend to care more about what people think of us rather than who God knows us to be. We are not what others think we are; we are what God knows us to be. What God knows us to be is that we are wired with the ability and inner strength to do great things, to stand strong in the face of opposition, to call forth the David within us in the face of life-Goliaths, to go further than we can ever imagine, and to live a life beyond what limits us.
When we focus on what others think of us, we run the risk of not becoming who God knows us to be and who God wants us to become. Focusing on what others think of us can box us into the corner of their judgment, only for us to, consciously or unconsciously, act and behave in ways that line up with their prejudice, and like Gideon, begin to look down on ourselves, doubt our own abilities, and end up living a life that we were not created to live. No wonder Scripture says, “It is dangerous to be concerned with what others think of you” (Proverb 29:25). Using the opinions of others as the measuring stick of our worth is always a losing battle. You could never please God if you are disgusted with the person looking back at you in a mirror.
God thinks good thoughts about us and so let us, as well, think good thoughts about ourselves. Never look down on yourself, no matter where you come from, who you are, what your profession is, or whatever imperfections you may have. There is always someone who is looking up to you; God your creator. We know that beliefs are very powerful because they have power to create and power to destroy. So believe in yourself, trust in your worth, be full of expectations, and stand with St. Paul when he says, “I am who I am by the grace of God”. Remember, also, that because you are who you are by the grace of God, other persons, also, are who they are by the grace of God and so we should never look down on anyone because only God sits up that high to do so.