Author: Larry Dansky
Christ is the light that allows people to see things in their fullness. The precise and intended effect of such a light is to see Christ everywhere else. The point of the Christian life is not to distinguish oneself from the ungodly, but to stand in radical solidarity with everyone and everything else. This is how we are to imitate Jesus, the good Jewish man who saw and called forth the divine in others. Jesus had no trouble whatsoever with otherness. – Richard Rohr
What is it that causes us to feel so uncomfortable with “otherness”? I can say that I’m open and tolerant to others, but that’s easier to do when I’m in a comfortable environment where the others around me are just like me. As a white, straight male, I have to admit that I’ve noticed my uncomfortableness when I’ve been the only white person in a room, the only straight person in the room, even when I’m the only male in the room. I can remember in college while I attended Vanderbilt University, I took a few classes at Fisk University, a historically black college not far from my campus. I was acutely aware and admittedly uncomfortable with the idea that I was the only white person in the classroom. As a physician, I remember giving a presentation on sexual health to the LGBTQ community at a local college, and feeling very uncomfortable at the gathering. My wife and I enjoy traveling to other countries, but I find that I’m out of my comfort zone when the language spoken around me is foreign and the customs different than my own. So, here’s my struggle: I would like to believe that I’m accepting of others, and yet I recognize that I’m uneasy when I’m surrounded by others who do not look, think, talk, or act like me.
I suppose that I will continue to struggle with feeling uncomfortable in such situations, and perhaps it’s not all that unnatural. There is a reason they call it a comfort zone. The good news is that I’m awake to and aware of these feelings when they arise. The bad news is that I know that I have at times avoided such situations so as to avoid feeling uncomfortable. As I write this, I’m thinking that one approach I might take is to put myself in such situations frequently enough that I become more comfortable with my surroundings wherever I am and whoever I’m with. Would I be more comfortable in such situations if I practiced being out of my comfort zone more often? I think it’s worth a try. I think that it’s at least part of Jesus’ message.
Lord, help me to lean in to, as opposed to avoid, situations where I’m uncomfortable with those around me. Jesus had no trouble with otherness. Help me to follow his example.