Are Your Values Stronger Than Your Biases? A Jesus and St. Tom Parable

How well and fairly you treat someone who is different than you is determined by how much your spirituality based values can override your baser emotions and biases

A story told by the late Swedish psychoanalyst, Lars Lofgren, that I heard while I was training to become a psychiatrist at UCLA, makes the point as well as any exposition on the topic.

It appeared that St. Peter needed to take a break from his job at the Pearly Gates and Jesus selected St. Tom to fill in.

Feeling nervous with this huge responsibility, Tom asked Jesus, “What do I say or ask these souls when they arrive at the gates?”

Jesus replied, “Hmmm? At the end of their lives, many of them appear to be preoccupied with me, because I often hear them and their loved ones mentioning my name.  So ask them, ‘Who is Jesus?’ That should give you some clues about whether to let them in or not.”

Jesus left and returned several hours later and observed Tom to be looking rather comfortable with his new role and responsibility.  He walked over to Tom and asked, “So Tom, how is it going and what have you discovered?”

Tom had a smile of confidence in having figured out what to do and replied, “Well Jesus, I think I have it figured out.”

“Really?” Jesus said, “That’s wonderful and I knew you could do it.  So tell me about who you have met and what happened.”

Tom explained, “Well, it’s been a bit of a Disney afternoon, because the first person was an elderly, lovely and kind older woman, reminiscent of the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, and as you suggested, I asked her, ‘Who is Jesus?’”

She smiled in a radiant and joyful way and said, “Jesus is love.  He’s beauty and kindness and forgiveness.  His cup runneth over at all times and he loves all of mankind, all plants and animals, the Earth and the Universe.”

Jesus listened patiently and replied, “So Tom, what did you do with her?”

“Well of course, I sent her through,” Tom replied.

“Hmmm?” Jesus replied with puzzlement in his voice and added, “Who did you see next?”

“Like I said, it’s been a Disney kind of day,” Tom said, “next I saw someone who looked like Geppetto from Pinocchio. He had white hair, a mustache, horn rimmed glasses and when I asked him, ‘Who is Jesus?,’ he opened his eyes wide and replied, “Aaah… Jesus is strong.  He’s just and fair.  He’s courageous and brave and wise.”

“And what did you do with him?” Jesus asked.

Tom replied brimming with confidence, “Well of course! I sent him through too!”

“Hmmm?” Jesus replied, again with a puzzled expression.  “Did you see anyone else Tom?” he asked.

Suddenly Tom looked awkward and hesitant and hemmed and hawed and said, “Well I did see another person and another Disney like character, with a sleazy smile, slicked back hair and a gold tooth, but I don’t know if I want to tell you about him.”

Jesus perked up and insisted, “OhTom! No, please go on. Please tell me about him.”

Haltingly and slowly, Tom explained looking down with embarrassment, “Well dear Master, he said Jesus was selfish, petty, vindictive, bitter, greedy and stupid.”

“And what did you do with him Tom?” Jesus asked with a peculiar smile.

“Well of course, I sent him back and away. I would never let him through!” Tom explained and exclaimed.

Jesus’ grin widened with a wisdom and knowing that only a Master could possess and then he said with loving kindness, “Tom, that man saw me exactly as I am! But what he didn’t see was my effort every day to not be that way.”

What baser emotions and biases do you have that you every day struggle to not take control of you?

I recently heard someone ask a question in a meeting, “Who is the better person? The one who has good thoughts and does good deeds or the one who has bad thoughts and does good deeds?”

The answer came forth that in the eyes of a loving and forgiving God, they were both loved equally.  And with such a God, even the person who had bad thoughts and did bad deeds was loved, because such a God is also merciful.

Education / Inspirational

Dr. Mark Goulston is a #1 best selling author of seven books, former hostage negotiation trainer, speaker, trainer, coach and renowned psychiatrist. He is regarded as an internationally renowned expert in the field of empathy and listening. As a result of his rich and diverse background and experiences, Dr. Goulston increases people’s ability to get through to anyone.