For a good part of my education, I was the only colored person. That’s right in a school of about 600 kids, I was the only non-white. Over the years, the school began to be populated with people from China, Hong Kong, Singapore and eventually Indians. But for a decent proportion of the time, I was the only brown person. I didn’t feel the distinction all the time. However, I definitely knew I was different when I would unwrap my roti parcel, and all my friends would have their neat little jam sandwiches with the crust cut off. I didn’t love the looks of repulsion I got when they saw my lunch. Of course, now the tables have well and truly turned, and those kids are probably wishing they hadn’t been so naïve about my homemade Indian cuisine!
I should say, that I didn’t get any racism at school. In fact, I was quite included. It was only a few critical moments that would remind me of my difference. Like at lunch time, as mentioned. Or when I had a crush on a guy. There was a girl in my class, that pretty much all the guys liked at some stage. She was blonde. Pretty. Skinny. And she was sporty. Eventually the infatuation with her subsided. But then another year or so later, another new girl came along that all the boys became preoccupied with. She was blonde. Pretty. Skinny. And kind of sporty. I was friends with all the guys, and yet none of them ever seemed to like me. Why was that? At some point, I became aware of the obvious physical differences between the girls the guys liked and me…
And I was different! Almost the opposite really…I was brown, with black hair, nobody had told me I was pretty and by that age I was already shapely (it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I realized that wasn’t a bad thing). And forget about sporty. I was a typical creative person. As much as I was friends with everyone, it was very rare for a guy to like me…let alone like me back. So, I guess that’s where the mindset developed. I started to believe that beauty looked a certain way. And though I might try, I would never be a part of that elusive group called “the beautiful people”. That group was special, and I would always be on the outer of that group. I belonged to another group entirely. And I would never be able to change groups. I presumed that life was easier for them. They certainly seemed happier. They were WANTED. Everyone flocked to be around them. Barring a few close friends, the only reason why people wanted to hang out with me was to tell me their problems. Something that God clearly saw when He led me to become a counselor.
Of course, over time God has done much to heal my self-esteem issues and rework my ideas of beauty. But this belief about “the beautiful people” has been pretty hard to break down. A few years ago, in our church this awesome Godly couple became fairly prominent. And they typified everything that I associated with “the beautiful people”. I felt like I was in high school all over again! They sincerely challenged my beliefs when they demonstrated that they wanted to be around me! How?? We were in different groups! And groups don’t cross- pollinate right?!
I’m definitely still on a journey with this, but the most significant healing I’ve received in this area has been as a result of my learning in humility. I became really passionate about the subject of humility, when I recognized pride in myself during my time as a Pastor. Since then I’ve pursued humility and battled for it. Whilst humility refers to how we behave and respond to both God and man, it also has a lot to do with placement. It pertains to not only what God says about who I am, but how God positions or categorizes me. The weight He gives me, or how He values me, directly impacts where I stand before Him. The process for me internally developing the idea of “the beautiful people” group essentially happened the same way. I labelled that group accordingly, because I believed they had a different value to everyone else.
\ But when you pursue humility, your classification system changes. It no longer becomes about jocks, nerds, beautiful people, and creatives. Because it’s the position of God in your life, that now determines where everything else is placed. I am so much lesser than Him, and yet He values me inherently. He doesn’t keep me out of the categories He inhabits. Rather He includes me in them, on account of the cross. He calls me holy, righteous, chosen, child of God, an equal in the body of Christ, royal, citizen of Heaven…I could go on. Consequently, I can’t place myself as lower than others, because the cross has determined which group or category I belong to. My old grouping system is invalid. And neither am I higher or more valuable than my brothers and sisters.
True humility knows its place and its estimation of self.
So, it has been one big journey of trying to eradicate my system, and look to God as to how He distinguishes me.
"Melanie J. Saward is a published Author and Writer. She wrote the book, 'Ministry Stinks: One Leader's Journey from Despair to Joy'.
Follow her on IG: @melj_saward