Quakers have the same struggles as the rest of society and that includes a time of realizing we may have feelings contrary to what we know is true of all people. It is never acceptable to allow such feelings to influence us into actively denying the inherent equality of another person because of his or her race, gender or sexual orientation. However, at such a time, rather than being ashamed, it is better to honestly acknowledge our negative feelings and consider if they have indeed gained a place in our thinking.

John Woolman advised us to “look upon our treasures, and the furniture of our houses, and our garments, and try whether the seeds of war have any nourishment in these our possessions”. In a similar way, we might look upon our thoughts, and the influences around us, and our beliefs, and try whether the seeds of discrimination have any nourishment in these our perspectives.

What should be our response if reflection reveals we are nourishing seeds, no matter how small, of prejudice within us? A person who keeps a garden knows that tending to it is a matter of consistent work that continues from the spring’s first planting to the final gathering in the fall. So it is with the mind. Our faith calls us to distinguish seeds that yield fruit of the spirit from those that do not. In Galatians 5:22, Paul identifies those seeds as the ones that produce “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”. Such fruit, as it is brought to fullness, gives no room for racism, sexism or homophobia to grow within us. Having identified the seeds of our true nature, we are to tend to them in such as way as to bring forth the best results our efforts can yield.

 

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