I made a shocking discovery about myself this week. In Made to Stick, Dan and Chip Health tell the story of a third grade teacher who wanted to erase prejudice in her students. Martin Luther King, Jr. had just been assassinated. This teacher wondered how she could help her class really grasp the tragedy of prejudice.
One morning she told her class that brown eyes were better than blue. She moved all the blue-eyed students to the back of the room. They had to wear collars so they could be recognized from a distance. Brown eyes were given a longer recess.
By: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District
Friendships immediately dissolved as brown-eyed children shunned their blue-eyed peers. One child even asked her how she could be the teacher since she had “them blue eyes.” The next day, she told the class that she’d made a mistake. Blue eyes were superior to brown. The blue-eyed children squealed with delight and ran to put their collars around their brown-eyed classmates.
The teacher noticed something else. That day the blue-eyed children were faster on their spelling drill
“Why were you so slow yesterday?” she asked.
“Because all I could think about was those collars,” one blue-eyed student said.
Hearing this story caused me to ask myself what hidden prejudices I might have? The answer shocked me.
I’d just returned from a wonderful conference where I’d been inspired and learned a lot. But I’d also left feeling ancient next to the younger participants who were light-years ahead of me in their knowledge of technology, marketing, and social media. I felt like I’d pulled up to a jet fueling station in my horse and buggy. And while their spaceships intrigued me, I wasn’t sure I could—or wanted to—drive one.
Paul wrote to Timothy. “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12, ESV).
I’d turned Paul’s words upside down. I was looking down on myself for my lack of youth.
I remembered the words of the third grade children. They couldn’t do the spelling because all they could think about were those collars.
As long as I focused on some perceived negative aspect of myself, I would sabotage my ability to learn and grow. Paul’s words applied to me. “Debbie, don’t despise your lack of youth, but ‘set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.’”
By God’s grace, I can do that. And if I get those things right, I believe God is able to make up for what I lack in other areas.
Who are you looking down on? We shouldn’t look down on anyone, even ourselves. Prejudice sabotages success.
Can you relate to my discovery? Click here to share your thoughts.
Debbie W. Wilson
Diane Allen says
Debbie: Thank you for this! I can so relate in every area! I am confident in my abilities in teaching and speaking but once I start thinking about all the new social media interactions, websites and technology stuff that seems to be required to use you gifts these days I am paralyzed. Our church is made up of much younger — much younger — families and individuals and when I try to integrate within this social structure I feel like a granny, with a cane and I feel that they look at me that way as well (at least it seems like they do). I need to meditate on that verse for a while.
Debbie Wilson says
Diane, I never thought I’d feel a generation gap, but I was wrong. When you didn’t grow up with computers and aren’t in places where you’re learning the new technology as it happens, you fall behind quickly. But Peter wrote that God has given us all we need for life and godliness. So I must remember that! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Ralph Smith says
The first time I heard about that study was years ago. It really was shocking to watch the kids react to the leadership of their teacher/leader. Although that type of activity would never be tolerated today, it was an interesting experiment. It made we realize how critical leadership is to create an environment that promotes teamwork and not divisiveness. Our country’s leaders today are masters of the latter. Christ did not promote divisiveness, but he did question what the leaders were trying to do in their key roles.
Debbie Wilson says
It was a shocking experiment and unsettling to see how easily we humans can be wrongly influenced in our perception of ourselves and other people. Reminds me of Hitler and the Jews. We need to learn to be wise and discerning. I agree with you, Christ did not promote divisiveness. Thank you, Ralph, for reading and commenting.
Ann Musico says
Debbie I can most definitely relate because I find myself slipping into those perceptions about myself quite often! You are so right – we are not to look down on anyone INCLUDING ourselves – we are fearfully and wonderfully made and He has us here right at this time, not by accident! Thank you for reminding me!
Debbie Wilson says
Thank you, Ann, for reading and commenting. We will remind each other!