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The Truth about Mutuality

“Difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas; as in escaping old ones.” – John Maynard Keynes

There are many things in life as a person of color and faith that present great challenges. I vividly remember going to do some temporary work for a very prestigious company in downtown Chicago. Not long after starting there I was hired for a permanent position, with promises of promotion and other wonderful things that the higher-ups offer new talent. I was eager to gain new employment and willing to do what I must to aid my 3-person team.

Time passed, and I noticed that I was doing all the heavy lifting.

Time passed, and I noticed that I was doing all the heavy lifting that should have been done by my supervisor. When I asked the head of the department why she continued to ask me to handle all the major accounts, do all the back-end programming, work all major events, et cetera, I was informed that it was because I had a skill set that the other individual didn’t.

Time went on—eventually the company was restructured. I presumed I would receive a promotion that had continually been dangled in my face. Although my supervisor couldn’t handle the workload and continued to make mistakes that I had to clean up somehow, we mysteriously stayed in the same roles.

One day, as I was leaving work I had to double back to grab something I had forgotten. I overheard a devastating conversation about me that took me weeks to make sense of.

"I need you to step it up so that my decision to keep her in that position was justified."

I heard the head of the department telling my supervisor, “I need you to step it up so that my decision to keep her in that position was justified, because I just couldn’t see myself giving a Black girl that kind of power over my friend.” I struggled that night as I headed home. I was filled with so many emotions and unsure of what to do as this was a conversation that I should have never heard.

The next day, despite the anxiety I felt, I returned to work to speak with an HR specialist. She reassured me that she stood with me and that we needed to talk with my supervisor. After receiving a confession from my superior, the HR specialist informed my boss that she was standing with me and tried to convince my supervisor to do the same. My supervisor replied, “I do, that’s one of the many reasons that I hired her.” I knew that my abilities secured me the job, but they couldn’t secure leadership and influence. That’s when I realized that mutuality carries a greater burden than many people are willing to share, no matter the setting.

Dr. King stated it this way: “As long as there is poverty in this world, no man can be totally rich even if he has a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant, and millions of people cannot expect to live more than twenty or thirty years, no man can be totally healthy, even if he just got a clean bill of health from the finest clinic in America. Strangely enough, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.”

I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.

Wow! My ability to fully exist and be what God has created me to be hinges on you being all that you were created to be, and we do that in tandem. Sadly, many in this world fear the greatness that lies within others, so they go to great lengths to suppress it.

Many believe that merely acknowledging the differences or struggles around us is enough. But without a tangible, sacrificial demonstration of standing together, we only perpetuate cycles that prevent us from truly standing together. This idea of mutuality must mean more than just “I stand with you!” We as a community of faith must decide what “standing with” looks like.

This idea of mutuality must mean more than just “I stand with you!”

I’m reminded of a Bible story that paints a picture of what mutuality should look like. There was man who needed healing but could not get to Jesus himself, as he was very ill. His friends fought through the crowd, climbed up to the roof carrying him, and ripped it open to lower their friend down to receive his healing.

Imagine a world where we all understood what that man’s friends understood about mutuality! What if we all understood that our greatness relies on the greatness of our neighbors, so we seek to provide whatever it takes for our neighbors to be great?

There was man who needed healing but could not get to Jesus himself.

If you can’t walk, I will be your legs. You can’t speak for yourself, I will speak for you. You don’t have access to resources, I will provide what I can, and if I have access to influence and you don’t, I am responsible to share the wealth.  

Friends, we must learn that God’s justice is more than just words; it requires us to truly love our neighbors as ourselves –and that’s the truth about mutuality.

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