Preconceptions and Relationships

By Jane Highley

I spent four weeks this summer taking a crash-course on the foundations of American Constitutionalism in Washington, DC. As part of my graduate studies in American history, this course was designed to provide solid scholarship on the political, constitutional, and legal history of the framing and ratification of the Constitution. I had been immersed in unparalleled scholarship through lectures, discussions, brick-thick books, and excursions to historic sites like Mt. Vernon, Montpelier, and Monticello.

Of the many valuable lessons that I had learned from my time at Georgetown University, one of the most pleasant surprises was that not everybody was politically or socially different than me. There were 48 teachers in my cohort and we came from almost all 50 states. Despite the geographic diversity, I had no reason to believe that there would also be a diversity of opinions and worldviews. That was an unfair and sad mistake. I had already jumped the gun by assuming that everybody, including the professors, would fall into a much different camp than me. But that was clearly not the case. I met many people, including a few professors, who shared similar values and beliefs. When we realized these things about one another, I felt so ashamed of my prejudice. I had written them off out of fear that they would write me off for my own take on various issues.

This discovery also made me wonder about wasted opportunities to develop friendships with others, especially in the workplace. Had I unknowingly closed myself off to certain people because I had prejudged them to reject me because of my faith and my gospel worldview? Especially given the politically charged nature of Washington, DC, I had blatantly made two unfair and false assumptions. First, I assumed that Christians like me would be chided and corrected for upholding religious convictions without which my lifestyle choices and values would have no merit or meaning. Second, I assumed that I would be the only Christian in my class. Needless to say, I was very glad to be wrong on both accounts. I met some wonderfully thoughtful, caring, and brilliant colleagues whose beliefs were more closely aligned with mine. One of them was a Catholic teacher from Ohio with whom I was able to enjoy many sunrise runs along the Potomac River.

Jesus commands: “Do not judge” and “Love one another” and I failed that lesson miserably because I had already turned myself away out of a fear of rejection, and therefore, denied myself the opportunity to love others, both for their similarities and their differences. This is a good lesson to remember for, in the fall, I will yet again be in a new place (a private Catholic school) in which God will—no doubt—lovingly challenge me to not discount myself so soon for my ill-perceived differences. Regardless of any difference, God’s love is powerful and his grace is irresistible enough to bring people under his sovereignty.