I’ve learned enough about privilege to know that we’re at our most dangerous when we think we’ve learned everything we need to know about it. Brené Brown.
Finally, my dear family, rejoice in the Lord! It’s no trouble for me to repeat myself, and for you it is a safeguard. Beware of the religious elite! All they are interested in is protecting their image. True believers trust God’s Spirit, follow Jesus’s teachings, and place no confidence in their privileged status (My paraphrase of Philippians 3:1-3)
I entered the meeting space late and overheard the guest speaker asking the event host to move the audience to a smaller room. The speaker had noticed that the room was only half full. He prefers to speak to a crowded room. (I get that!) The host explained to him that the conference room would not have enough seats for everyone. To which the speaker replied, “That’s good! I like the energy when the room is over capacity. Once the conference table is full, set up some chairs around the perimeter.”
My heart began to race, and I immediately lost my appetite. I was turned off by this speaker’s philosophy of event management, but why did I feel upset by it? If this guy wants a dopamine hit to get his energy up for speaking, why do I care? Then I realized: This whole scene is a ‘values violation’ for me; and being in a room full of male clergy always ‘triggers shame’ for me. (More on values violations and shame triggers later this week.)
Back to the story… I lingered in the auditorium, until the final few of us were ushered into the smaller conference room. Expecting to sit on the perimeter, imagine my surprise when my colleague Scott was already reading the situation, setting up chairs, and motioning to several local guests to sit on the edge of the room with him. When I made eye contact with Scott, he raised his eyebrows, smiled, and wryly motioned for me to take an open seat at the table.
This would not be the last meeting where Scott takes action. (I’ll share another story tomorrow.) Being aware of the power and privilege in the setting, Sam was making room at the table for others and me.
You may or may not have thought about the kind of religious privilege Paul writes about in Philippians 3 or I encounter at male-dominated clergy gatherings. Brené Brown addresses other types of privilege in Chapter 8 of Rising Strong.
How does privilege affect you on a daily basis? Either the privilege you have or the privilege you don’t have?
LORD God, teach me more about my privilege. Help me make the choice to connect with people outside my privileged group.