“Your prejudices can easily distort your perceptions. If you have a prejudice against an individual, it will distort how you perceive who he is and what he does.” –Ravi Zacharias
(This is a free-flow exploration born from the above statement)
Prejudice is a preconceived opinion or prejudgment that is NOT based on reason or actual experience. It is an unfavorable opinion formed without knowledge, thought or reason (wikipedia & dictionary.com)
Most of us think of prejudice in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, etc. It has become an emotionally charged word in our culture. Therefore, I’ll use the word ‘prejudgement’ for the sake of this discussion because this is the case for ALL people we interact with.
We must constantly be on our guard against prejudging people. If we’re honest, we understand that we prejudge people before we actually know them all the time. It is almost impossible to keep from doing this. With every introduction or handshake, I am making prejudgements. You are too.
The problem as I see it, is we’re making internal statements about the individual instead of asking internal questions. In my mind, I am making presumptions about this person which amount to snap character judgements. Instead, I should be asking asking myself character questions.
Why is any of this important?
If I prejudge someone before I actually know anything about them, my perception of them will be distorted. This distortion will taint the relationship. This causes miscommunication, missed opportunities and prevents meaningful growth. Basically, the relationship is DOA (Dead on Arrival). It is dangerous to base our thinking about someone on a non-reality or an opinion preformed without any knowledge.
The Difference: Intuition and Prejudgment
I’ve learned a recurring lesson regarding prejudgement. The majority of the time when I’ve made a snap judgement before knowing someone, I later find out I was completely wrong. Have there been occasions when I’ve gotten a ‘bad feeling’ or sensed something ‘a bit off’ with someone? Absolutely. My gut (intuition) has protected me from many catastrophes in the past. However, intuition is not the same as a prejudgement. It is up to you and me to learn how to know the difference. It is a mind game we must master.
How do I prevent or minimize prejudgement?
Discipline: I understand my default is to make snap judgements. I must learn to turn my internal statements into internal questions about a person. To do this, I must constantly train my mind to recognize my folly and adjust it.
First impressions covered in grace:
Grace: I understand that extending grace is a better way to engage people I meet for the first time. People put a lot of weight in first impressions. But, if my dear friends prejudged me on their first impression of me, I’d have no friends. LOL! Leading with grace into an initial interaction with someone is beneficial and makes room for growth and is fertile soil for cultivating trust.
Think about how most people prejudged Jesus Christ during his time on earth. He was a poor, simple carpenter from an obscure little town called Nazareth. He did not have a big palace or chariots or teams of servants. Jesus surrounded himself with gnarly fisherman and others who we may consider ‘lowlifes’ today. Whether you are a Christian or not, you must admit that he is much more than poor, simple carpenter.
Most people we meet are much more than our prejudgement or prejudices dictate.
Look at Warren Buffett’s car again… Does it look like the kind of car a Billionaire would drive?