I was an anxious sixth grader who was heading off to a big track meet. I told my parents I was going to take a quick lap around the neighborhood to get warmed up before we left. As I took the turn on a street lined with tall oaks and parked cars, I didn’t notice when an unfamiliar dog chased after me from across the road.

I heard him before I saw him. Growling. Barking brutally, like an animal you read about in scary books. When my eyes saw him, all I noticed was the speed of his feet and foam coming the from his mouth.

I ran to the nearest car and crawled on top of the hood, screaming. I can’t tell you what I said as my words drowned themselves in fear. However, I vividly recall the dog scratching at the doors of the vehicle trying to get to me: I still can hear his nails. A man mowing his yard saw me and ran to my aid. Eventually, the dog was captured by animal services. My parents later explained that the stray dog was sick with a virus and had to be put down.

What I didn’t realize was this experience would follow me into adulthood, tucking itself neatly into a memory that assesses my views. I hardly notice that I flinch when unfamiliar dogs come near to me. Except this past weekend I caught myself walking away at a garage sale as a dog came across the street. I left, telling myself there was nothing at the sale that caught my eye. In truth, the dog grabbed my attention. I was uncomfortable.

I wonder how many times we do this to God’s children? We may have had a bad experience with someone from a different religion, national origin, race, color, or sex. We may even see people differently depending on where they live, political affiliation, if they go to church, who they run with, and the weight of their title. We take a bad experience and begin to see all people in that circle as those who are up to no good, thoughtless, frauds, and not to be trusted.

Discrimination is often a subtle action on our part. We may not even realize we are backing away from situations because we are uncomfortable; their presence and our experiences collide to create a biased reality. In truth, we become the ones with a virus of hate because we fail to separate a bad experience from the whole of God’s creation.

“All Christians are…”

“Those people….”

“I am not surprised they…”

These words can be vicious, sharp nails ripping us apart from Jesus’ commandment to love one another (John 13:34). God does not show favoritism (Acts 10:34), and even on our best day we are no better than anyone on their worst day.

“Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11).

May we ask God to reveal our prejudices; to “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). And may we refuse to let a bad experience give us cause to behave in creating a reality which draws God’s children further away from one another and His love.

SGLY, dear reader.

(Smile, God Loves You.)

Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier, Instagram: @tiffanysgly, and Twitter: @tiffanychartier.