Making the Invisible Visible

Making the Invisible Visible

Have you ever entered a room and failed to see someone? Driven a route and not noticed the billboards? Failed to hear a spouse, child, or friend speaking to you?  Maybe you were waiting on the traffic light to turn green, only to realize that you missed it.  I think most of us can relate to experiences like these.  Sometimes, we get so caught up in our lives, or in the moment that we miss what is going on around us.  It isn’t that we don’t care; it’s just that we weren’t paying attention. 

Several years ago, a national restaurant chain settled a discrimination complaint with the Department of Justice.  As a part of the settlement, the restaurant agreed to outside testing and monitoring.  Testing is like the “secret shopper” experience that many stores use, instead specially- trained individuals enter the restaurant to make observations and record the experience. 

Typically, a white and minority couple will separately enter a restaurant.  Most restaurant patrons, and the restaurant itself are unaware of the test; even the testers don’t usually know each other. 

The test results are analyzed to determine if discrimination occurred, or if a pattern of discrimination exists.  The tests are conducted several times to eliminate a onetime occurrence of a behavior or practice.  Often, the tests show that minorities are treated differently, not informed of specials or discounts, don’t receive the same level of service, wait longer for a table or their food, and servers don’t check on them as often, a practice called “checkbacks.” 

Similar experiences are reported in property rental and sales, mortgage lending, insurance, and even medical care; often reported as a symptom of disparities in health care.  You may have written these off as slow service, poor customer service, etc.; but have you asked yourself, could it be something else?  Probably not as we mostly focus on our experience and not that of others.  But Philippians 2:4 (NCV) tells us: 

“Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others.”

I believe most of us are good and caring people, we don’t intentionally seek, or support, the harm of others; often, “we don’t see it, so we don’t get it.”  I believe, Jesus sought those society ignored or condemned; the needy, poor and the sick, not only to make them visible to us; He wanted to point out our “blind spots.” 

Jesus sought those society ignored or condemned.

A blind spot is something that we don’t know, or something we don’t see about ourselves; but others do.  As leaders, and Christians, we can’t afford to have them.  Fortunately, self-awareness instruments, like the Johari Window, can offer insight into our blind spots.  The Halett Leadership program states “everyone can gain from learning about their own blind spots – and leaders particularly stand to benefit, because any growth they experience will influence the departments and people that they lead.”   Some common blind spots identified by program participants are:

  1. Not Standing Up for Something Perceived as Important
  2. Having an “I know all of this already” Attitude
  3. Being Unaware of The Impact Your Behavior Is Having on Others

I have been and, sorry to say, still am occasionally guilty of all of these.  But it is my hope that knowing about them helps guard against them.  In describing the events leading to the destruction of Jerusalem, I believe, Ezekiel 34:4 (CEB) warns us about some leadership effects of blind spots:

“You don’t strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strays, or seek out the lost; but instead you use force to rule them with injustice.”

What does it take to combat the injustices caused by our blind stops?  Blinds spots can be positive, as well as negative.  For example, if a department store clerk came to you and you responded, “they were ahead of me”; congratulations you’ve taken a step.

What does it take to combat the injustices caused by our blind stops?

Consistently battling our blind spots requires:

  1. Becoming aware of your blind spots; ask others for feedback.
  2. Conducting self-assessments to actively identify blinds spots.  
  3. Recognizing that prejudices, biases, and stereotypes, both positive and negative, are a normal part of life; we must be aware of them to ensure they don’t affect others. 
  4. Speak up when you see injustice against others.  Martin Niemöller’s poem, First They Came, is a reminder of the cost of not speaking up. 
  5. Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. 
  6. Finally, certainly not lastly, submit to God’s will.  Micah 6:8 (GNT) tells us:

“No, the Lord has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.”

Challenge:  Look for ways to directly combat injustice.  Consider volunteering, many civil rights organizations, such as fair housing groups, seek and train people to help identify discriminatory practices.  For students, these are great work experiences and learning opportunities; stipends and reimbursements are often provided.  By volunteering, you’ll gain valuable knowledge in identifying injustice; as well as receive tremendous leadership training and insight. 

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Gilbert Camacho

Gilbert Camacho serves as President, Organizational Leadership Solutions, a management consulting firm, based in Melbourne, Florida.  Gilbert is a certified Lead Like Jesus Facilitator with extensive leadership experience in the private, public and non-profit sectors.  He has been a contributing author to the Lead Like Jesus Blog for almost 3 years writing monthly on such issues as servant leadership, accountability, trust and integrity.  Gilbert s a sought-after Speaker, Trainer, and Executive Coach.  Gilbert is a Registered Shared Neutral (Mediator) with the State Supreme Court of Georgia.  He recently retired an Associate Director for the Human Resources Office at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.  Gilbert has been married to his best friend, Annie, for almost 40 years.  Together they have raised two beautiful daughters, Holley and Logan. 

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