From the time we started hearing the word “discrimination” in the 70’s, we developed a negative denotation and connotation from it. We abhorred it like a plague. We tried to stay away from it as far as we can. We did not want to be associated with it. The reason is simple: the meanings we learned from the word as being used is to be biased, bigoted, unfair, prejudiced or intolerant. These are all heavily negative.
Just wait a minute though. Does the word really mean only those negative concepts? Has anybody thought to look up the meaning of the word?
Last night at our Bible Study, the word came up. Well, I made it come up in relation to our study of Romans 12 where Paul admonishes us on how to live a true Christian life. We see how his teachings have broken away from the O.T. Judaic laws. Where there was “an eye for an eye” and a “tooth for a tooth,” he now says, “recompense no one evil for evil.” In the O.T. God instructed his people to kill all the enemies; he instructed his men and women not to marry foreigners as well. He wanted his people pure and unadulterated. This principle remains with Paul’s teachings though because as Christians we are to be set apart.
Therefore, I pointed out that we inherited a discriminating character or attitude from the Bible itself. All through the Bible, God favored the Jews over the Gentiles. In simple terms, he played favorites. The word “favorite” is one aspect of the word discrimination. That word is not all negative. It has positive characteristics as well.
Our facilitator corrected my way of thinking saying that there was a difference. That referring to Biblical principles and teachings, the appropriate word is “discerning.”
I wanted to differ with him but I did not want to create a lengthy discussion with the limited time that we had. Besides, I did not research the word deep enough to be able to engage in an educated exchange and defend my stand.
In order to educate myself and share it with whoever is “discerning,” I referred to my Roget’s Thesaurus as a discriminating authority. Unbelievably, “discerning” is but one sliver of the word just as the word “favorite” is; discrimination has an implication that goes far beyond what we have been hearing and is made to accept. So, here is what Roget’s Thesaurus showed me:
· discriminate – distinguish, tell apart, differentiate, separate, categorize, classify
singled out, show favoritism, show prejudice, favor, victimize
· discriminatory –biased, prejudiced, unfair, bigoted, inequitable
· discrimination – v. bias, favoritism, prejudice, unfairness, inequity, bigotry, intolerance; n. taste, good taste, judgment, discernment, insight, acumen, perception, refinement
· discriminating – discerning, sharp, astute, selective, judicious, perceptive, tasteful, cultivated, refined
Based upon the above definitions, the positive aspect of “discrimination” and its related words are part of what Paul was saying Christians’ lifestyle should be.
When we show good judgment, we are discriminating; when we are selective in the friends we keep, we are discriminating; when we show refinement and finesse, we are discriminating. When we are discerning, we are discriminating.
So, let’s not trash the word altogether. It has its place in our daily vocabulary and paradoxical way of living.2