What do you see in this picture? How might you associate it with the title? Which way are you already thinking? Your answers to those three questions could be revealing your inner thoughts, perceptions and prejudices! Some things lurk in the alleyways of our minds that we wish did not so we keep them locked up as we do not want others to know they live in our ‘zoo’! We tend to make assessments based on limited information and on inner biases rather too quickly. If you look again, you will be able to see five water fowl that resemble adolescent ducklings but are in fact cygnets preening themselves, not fully aware that they are in process of becoming beautiful swans. Hans Christian Andersen wrote ‘The Ugly Duckling’ in 1843 – what do you remember about it?
- ‘I realized that bullying never has to do with you. It's the bully who's insecure’ – Shay Mitchell
- ‘We all lose when bullying and personal attacks become a substitute for genuine conversation and principled disagreement’ – Alicia Garza
- ‘Most comedy is based on getting a laugh at somebody else's expense. And I find that that's just a form of bullying in a major way. So I want to be an example that you can be funny and be kind, and make people laugh without hurting somebody else's feelings’ – Ellen DeGeneres
- ‘It's important to stand up to all forms of bullying, and it's even more important for those who are around you to be just as courageous and stand with you!’ – Normani Kordei
The classic story raised questions about bullying, discrimination, and the importance of being true to yourself. The ‘ugly duckling’ looked very different from his siblings who ridiculed him and treated him horribly because he didn't look like them. Is it not wrong to take sides against someone who is different to you let alone to try to deliberately hurt them? Accepting difference is part of emotional and spiritual maturity. Whilst someone else’s values may not be yours, they have that right of choice which is good and is called ‘freewill’. What they don’t have is the right to impose this choice on anyone else or to make life difficult for those who don’t own their values.
- ‘Discrimination has a lot of layers that make it tough for minorities to get a leg up’ – Bill Gates
- ‘I hate prejudice, discrimination, and snobbishness of any kind - it always reflects on the person judging and not the person being judged. Everyone should be treated equally’ – Gordon Brown
Like blurred photos, life is not always clear. Photography came to the masses with the launch of the Box Brownie from Kodak in 1900 but the first pin hole camera was discovered by an Arab physicist also known as Alhazen around 1030. His discovery of the ‘camera obscura’ came from experiments with light through a small opening in a darkened room. Back in the early days of photography, developing photos from exposed film roll was a complicated and unreliable process. As exposed film went through chemical stages, an image would gradually be revealed. People’s speech and actions will gradually reveal their inner prejudices and judgemental attitudes in a similar way.
- ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you’ – Luke 6:36-38
- ‘Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind’ – 1 Peter 2:1
- ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye’ – Matthew 7:3-4
- ‘Do not be afraid of anyone, for judgment belongs to God’ – Deuteronomy 1:17
An animal from the wild would prefer not to be in a zoo and they can even turn on their keepers. Taming a lion is a dangerous pastime as one Thomas Macarte discovered in 1872 when he was killed by one during a performance! If you have some ‘wild animals’ living in your mind, maybe it’s a good time to release them to the wild where they belong so that you are no longer subject to them. As children of God, our lives are to be free from prejudice, hypocrisy and judgmentalism. Those attitudes reveal the heart of someone who would prefer to pick up stones to throw in condemnation rather than a person who has received grace and shares the grace of God. A beautiful swan will eventually reveal itself as will the heart of a gracious child of God, even if some ugly feathers need to come out first.
TAGS – forgiveness, mercy, gentleness, thoughtfulness, acceptance, pardon, fairness