When You Realize You Are Privileged


I think I am pretty self-aware.

This is probably an indication I am not. 😉

So, it shocked me to realize that my default status in the world is one of privilege. It is still difficult to grasp and I want to say that it is not true. I grew up on a dairy farm where we rubbed pennies together most of the time. Then, when we auctioned off the farm we didn’t even have the pennies.

There were many hard years financially. We all struggled and suffered. I had a chip on my shoulder as a poor kid in a middle class neighborhood and school.

But the truth is I was able to go to a really good school and live in a safe, middle class area. And I was and am white. It was expected and believed that I would and could succeed. So I was encouraged by parents, teachers and administrators to do so. All of these things make up the privilege from which I come.

Again, it hurts to speak it this clearly.

Yet, I have become absolutely positive that I must.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were able to go to Cru’s bi-annual staff conference in Colorado. It was an amazing, challenging time. We had a painful, yet honest, and potentially healing conversation as thousands of staff gathered together. Very brave members of different ethnicities shared their stories of wounds through hurtful words and treatment by their fellow staff.

We all felt the pain.

Outside speakers and leaders of minority descent spoke again and again of the place and perspective of those of privilege. In the end, unless a person of privilege consciously chooses to lay down that privilege and enter the world of the underprivileged, he/she will always be operating from a place of privilege.

And this is where it gets a bit dicey. For all of us.

I am asking myself, when have I really laid down this privilege? I have been blind to its underpinnings, its insidious forming of my life.

It’s not a to-do list that reads like this:

  • Become a missionary or overseas worker
  • Sell all my belongings or greatly downsize them
  • Actually move to another country
  • Learn the host language and culture
  • Become an expert using a machete to navigate the jungle 😉
  • Develop immunity to mosquito bites 😉

I think you get the point.

It’s humbling to realize we can ‘do’ all of these things and more and still be living as the privileged. It’s heart-rending, and inside-searching and grueling to really, really look at our posture towards the world and the people with whom we share it.

But that is how it’s supposed to be.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,

 he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

~Philippians 2:5-8 (NLT)

(emphasis mine)

We will never be able to understand what it was for Jesus to empty himself of ALL of his privilege as God himself. And we will never be able to understand what it is to not have the level of privilege most of us do. Yet, we can walk this road of active ‘laying-down’ with confidence and precious assurance that we will understand Jesus’ journey more. We will know Him more. We will become more like Him. And the world will experience more of His presence, His Glory, His Beauty, and His love.

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Abby Alleman

A farm girl at heart, Abigail (Abby) loves the surprising stories God writes. Since her first plane trip at the age of twenty landed her in Barcelona, Spain, Abby knew her life would never be the same. She holds degrees in both Math and Spanish and is a former high school teacher. She has served as a translator and short-term missionary in Latin America and inner city Philadelphia. But her most treasured journey is when her big dreams came crashing to the ground, when heartbreak and humility brought her home to her family, God and eventually right to her husband, Jared. They have worked with the student ministry of CRU for over ten years in both the U.S. and Hungary. She has three small kids and blogs her life and love of story at Abigail Alleman ( www.abigailalleman.com ).