The Day I Realized I Was a Bigot

olive chan —  June 17, 2013 — 4 Comments

“There are two types of friends: friends of the road and friends of the heart.” I heard someone refer to this African concept in a talk once and thought it was a very perceptive way of describing friendships. As I think about the friends in my own life, I would have to agree.

The Day I Realized I Was a BigotMost of my friends have started out as friends of the road; people I happened to be in contact with because of proximity or common interests. As a child, my friends were the kids of the people my parents hung out with the most. I didn’t necessarily choose to be friends with them, but we played a lot together so they were considered friends. As time went on and I became more independent, I began being more intentional about who I shared my time, space and soul with. These people became friends of the heart.

Recently, a conflict with a good friend of mine challenged me to re-evaluate how I defined which friendships were closest to me. Up until our conversation, I had thought that the only people who could truly be my friends of the heart were the people I shared the same faith with. My line of reasoning was that unless we shared the same spirituality, we didn’t really get each other. So I didn’t even try to share the deeper parts of my soul with friends who had different beliefs than mine. What I didn’t realize was that I had unfairly assumed that this friend wasn’t interested in or able to understand me.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a bigot as, “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.” My friend says I am being too harsh on myself in using the term “bigot,” but the truth remains that I had shut my friend out simply on the basis of religion. Regardless of what I call it, the root still stems from prejudice. This friend and I had traversed many years together as friends of the road, and she had considered me a friend of her heart, but because of this one difference, I had not been open to reciprocating the same depth of friendship. Thankfully, she is an incredibly forgiving person.

As I follow Jesus, I am challenged to love more unconditionally just as I am loved without condition. This may sound rudimentary to some (I can hear voices saying,”Of course!”), but I need to welcome people into my heart regardless of whether they share the same beliefs as I do. I’ll be vulnerable here, it’s a big shift in my thinking. But it moves me in the direction of grace, and that’s who I want to be.

photo credit: © 2006-2013 Pink Sherbet Photography 

  • Vitaly

    Don’t you regret of loosing so many years with such “bigot” attitude? I noticed that Vancouver Protestant mentality limits people in so many ways.

    • olivechan

      I’m not sure that I’d use the word regret because regret doesn’t seem constructive. I do mourn that I hurt my friend and that it took me so long to see my fault. But I have to trust that God was at work even in those “lost” years, as you put it; and that I came to my realization at the right time in my life.
      As for the Vancouver Protestant mentality, navigating friendships between faiths is something a lot of people wrestle with, not just Protestants in Vancouver (conversely, not all Vancouver Protestants have this struggle). But I agree with you that the closed mindset does limit people, which is sad.

  • Arbust91

    I was recently told by my daughters BFF’s Dad that she can not hang out with his kids anymore, because we are not the same denomination od Christianity as them. This all started with a trip to a fine art museum where the girls saw a very graphic depiction of Christ on the Cross. The violence of it made my daughter sad.
    The truly disappointing thing for me is that this man had come to me recently about a neighbor who wouldn’t let their kids play with his kids because of race. This was very hurtful to him.

    • olivechan

      Arbust91, your comment grieves my heart. Sometimes though, we are blind to our own prejudices until God points them out. Saying a prayer for both your families – for grace, healing and peace.