What does it mean to give up privilege?


It can be a pretty hot topic word nowadays.

“Our mission is to serve the underprivileged.”

“They’re just a bunch of spoiled, privileged rich kids.”

“What’s all the talk about ‘white privilege’? I don’t act privileged.”

As much as we’d like to attach behavior to privilege, that isn’t actually the definition of it.

You see, having a privilege is something you swim in. Like a fish, you can’t tell that you are wet. You just are.

And like a fish, often you didn’t choose or control the world of privileges that you were given. It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing either.

It just is what it is.

The only time a fish can realize that it functions best being wet is only when it’s taken out of the water. Then, scarily enough, it realizes the thing that caused it’s world to function best was the water it swam in.

Where privilege gets confused.

What we have in our world is not a problem of fish living happily and functionally in good water. That’s a perfectly good thing.

It when those fish don’t realize that it’s the water that gave them an advantage and they assume that it was all their hard work and good morals that caused their success.

It’s when they hold their same high expectations to the other less fortunate fish that were washed up on shore due to a storm and haven’t been able to get back into the water.

The difference between the 2 fish isn’t hard work and intelligence.

The difference is one lives in the water, and one doesn’t.

Where privilege goes wrong.

Sometimes the fish that are doing well swimming in the ocean get really bitter when the fish on the shore are given help to get into the water (especially if it’s a government program).

The fish complain, “But I did all this hard work to build my life in this ocean, and that lazy fish over there is in that situation due to it’s own choices. Don’t you dare use our water to assist. That fish needs to create it’s own ocean.”

Often these fish don’t even realize they are wet and swimming in a high-functioning ocean, that the systems around them benefitted them to a place of success.

When you don’t know you have privilege, you can only be judgmental.

When you know you have privilege but don’t want to share it, you can only be selfish.

What do we do with privilege?

Now, some of us recognize the certain privileges that got us to where we are (ranging from education, literacy, gender, race, family, wealth, place of birth, country of origin), and some of us have more of them than others.

But we’re somewhat unsure of what to do with those privileges.

We can’t deny them. They exist. I live in it. I’m the fish that’s sopping wet with those privileges.

So, we can simply embrace them and accept the realities of the benefits we individually have.

“I acknowledge that coming from a family of high morals and ethics have me a privilege of soundness of mind, of childhood development knowing I am loved and worthwhile, and of family support for my life decisions.”

“I acknowledge that being white grants me safety, respect, and perception of power and wealth in many places in the world, including my home country.”

“I acknowledge that being a male immediately grants me better work opportunities and higher pay, while also bestowing a presence of power in most settings.”

So I get the part where we accept what is and become aware of it.

But I really struggle with what to do with my privilege.

Normally, we start getting all action-oriented and start making plans.

“Ok, so I have all these benefits that others don’t. I have decent income and a wealth of business knowledge, so thus I’m going to use my privileges to help all these other people that don’t have them.”

We make of list of all the people that don’t have what we have, who don’t have lives that we have, who we view as definitely under-privileged, and we take our plans to them to tell them exactly what they should do in order for them to be equal like us.

Because we want equality, right? Justice and equity for all?

But I soon came to realize that they only reason I could make these decisions to help is because I have the power to. That even my decision to step out and “help” came from a direct privilege.

So what does it mean then to serve others not from a place of power, when typically even the choice to serve comes from the powerful ability to make that decision?

As a Christian, I look at the life of Jesus to find direction here. He obviously was the standard for giving up privilege and power to serve people. And boy did he sure help and change people’s lives!

This verse in Philippians 2 has particularly been captivating my mind for months now:

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality of 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 the cross.

What does it mean to give up our privileges?

If helping others means that we have to hold on to our privileges and power in order to help, then what does it actually mean to give up our privileges for the sake of others?

A privilege revelation while on Care and Compassion


We drove the bumpy, dusty roads of Nylenda, an area in Kisumu, Kenya. Kisumu is a pretty developed city in Kenya, the third largest in the country, but several parts are impoverished and stuck in cycles of poverty.

Those slums — those are the targets for this team. We rode with a group of 3 Kenyans who have dedicated their lives to caring for the most sick and and AIDS-infected in Kisumu. In fact, they call their team “Care and Compassion.” Armed with medical knowledge and humongous hearts, they find the most needy and most sick, and support them into a hopefully stable condition. Stable physically, emotionally, spiritually.

We went from home to home, seeing several people in various stages of health. But more often than not, they were barely skin and bones, struggling with HIV and AIDS and often with other sicknesses like tuberculosis.

As difficult as it was to see, I was grateful to be with such a great team who was caring for these people in such loving, wholesome ways.


But then — I’ll never forget the last home. We walked to the door way of a home, and sitting right inside of the doorway was a lady perhaps not older than 40. She was sitting slumped over on a mat, unable to even lift her head to greet us. As we walked by we tried to shake her frail, limp hand.

As we came to understand the situation, everything about it seemed hopeless. No one would help her. Due to the stigma of AIDS, her neighbors wouldn’t take her to the hospital, and even her son who lived there wouldn’t help out. We brought food with us, but there would be no way for her to make the food or take her medications properly.

Even though this team was there to support her in getting back to good health, they worked in partnership with families so that dependency wasn’t created. They also didn’t have resources to handle all aspects of transportation, cooking, administering medications, etc. This situation was pretty desperate, though, they recognized. So they knew that very soon they would have to intervene.

As we drove back home, this idea of giving up privilege to serve came back to me, and I mulled over those verses in Philippians 2 and thought how maybe I was laying aside privileges like Jesus did to do this work.

And then the revelation came, with the not-so-comfortable truth.

Angela, to give up privilege is to literally switch places.

What? Switch places with this woman? No, I think I would do better to help her out, use my voice and resources and intellect to make a difference.

But would you switch places with her?

Switch places?? Eh, well, I guess I could. And I’m sure I could figure things out. I know I’d have my family that would help me by taking me to the hospital, and I know I’d have access to healthcare options to get my medication, and I have a lot of friends and networks who would intervene, and I already know how to start businesses so I could get myself back on track financially . . .

No no, you’d have to lose those things too. You can’t take any of them with you when you switch places.

But . . . without those things I’d be . . .


What does it take to lose privileges?

Well, in short, it requires everything.

And that’s a pretty steep cost. Pretty much too radical.

In order to be willing to lose privileges for the sake of others, only one thing would ever motivate someone to make that move.

And that one thing?


That’s it.

No one would ever do that much sacrifice for any other reason. It’s simply too much to lose ourselves without any promise of return.

Which then made me realize why Jesus’ love is so astounding. 

In just a little way, I was able to imagine for a moment the audacity of Jesus’ birth and coming to earth.

In a crude micro-comparison, it would be like me losing everything, my position and education and money and friendships and family and history and color and power, and taking the body of an AIDS-infected friend-less woman and sitting helplessly on the floor with no ability to care for herself.

What humility that would take.

And yet that’s the humility He exemplified by leaving behind his privileges as the very Son of God, and taking on the confined body of a human, and being like us, in all it’s limitations and brokenness.

And the only reason Jesus would do something like that?

For love.

He did that so that you and me could be in his family. So that we could have relationship with him. So that we could advantage of his God-privileges.

He switched places. 

He took our AIDS and gave us whole life.

He took our broken relationships and gave us loving families.

He took our self-destruction and gave us Image-bearing love.

He took our shame and gave us everlasting hope.

And this is the best example of humility we can have.

This is what it means to give up privilege.

It looks like love.

It looks like humility.

It looks like losing ourselves so that someone else can advance.

And it’s a whole more extreme, and life-changing, then we could ever imagine.

So then the question isn’t how much can you do with the privileges you’ve been given.

It’s how much can you humble yourself and sit in the place of another and love them unconditionally and lose yourself so that they might advance.

I Wanna Dance With Somebody…But Only When I’m Perfect And Flawless

DancingThere’s something about dancing. I simply love it. Dancing has always been absolutely appealing and adventurous to me.

At the same time though, dancing has always been so ridiculously terrifying to me.

Admit it. You agree. Dancing is terrifying, especially if people are aware that you are actually trying to dance and not just being a wedding dance floor freak show for comic relief.

See, when you dance, when you really dance with pure enjoyment, you are totally vulnerable. When you are outwardly expressing with your body something that’s inside your spirit, it makes everyone really uncomfortable.

When I started learning how to dance, I unknowingly took a terrible approach. I like how talented people look and being talented myself, so I put on this cover of performance, that in order for me to matter, in order for me to be accepted, I had to dance well. I had to meet their expectations: my dance partner, the crowd, and the invisible camera recording this for YouTube.

And when I messed up? I’d feel shame. My cover was blown. I wasn’t perfect. And I couldn’t let that happen. I needed to keep up the performance.

Otherwise I’d be an embarrassment. I wouldn’t be loved.

Then dancing suddenly stopped being about enjoyment and it became about performance. It became all about me and not about the song.

Messing up was forcing me to be vulnerable.

But I didn’t want to be vulnerable. I wanted to be perfect.

Then a change started evolving. Slowly, gradually. This change started when I began dancing at church.

I just made a lot of you really uncomfortable.

But seriously. This began when I was at a church whose worship was not at all about the people around us and what the expectation or tradition was, but about the One we were worshipping. It was an inside belief and joy that came out in an outward expression. It looked different for each person, but normally there was some sort of physical expression during the songs.

I learned to sing and dance freely because of my vulnerability before God, not because of perfection. Because we always come before Him with our nothing. Perfection is always just a guise. And God always sees through the act. Why hide? He accepts me as I really am, my ugly mess-ups and all.

I don’t perform before God. I worship.

So, this isn’t really a post about dancing. It’s about vulnerability verses performance.

Recently I’ve been having a breakthrough about how many layers of performance I put over myself when expressing who I am to others. Humor, intellect, experience, talent, transparency. I realize now that it is often just an act to cover up the shame of my full vulnerabilities.

Because if people really knew who I was then they probably wouldn’t love me.

And what’s worse is if they do see me for who I am and then say, “I like you this way.” That’s offensive. I can’t accept admiration unless I’ve earned it.

That fear is the root of all the hypocrisy of performance, that I have to come up with an act that the people I love and respect will love.

But I’m learning… I just need to dance. Trip, step on toes, miss a cue, spin the wrong way, fall. Mess up in every way that I mess up. That’s me. The real me.

And you know what? The best dances are when I’m dancing with someone and we each mess up again and again and it just makes us laugh harder. It means the fear is gone. I laugh and not cry because I’m free. I’m accepted and enjoyed, imperfections and all. And I’m free to accept that acceptance.

You may not dance and are appalled at the thought of moving your feet, hands, hips or other extremities to the beat of the music. Fair enough.

But when will you let yourself be vulnerable? When will you let someone see the real you and be okay with their stark observation, “I like you this way”?

How Dare You Call Yourself “Fat?”

What woman has not looked in the mirror and declared in real disappointment,

“I am so fat.”

I mean, who would want this? Nobody does. And especially not me. 

Sure, we know it’s not helpful or healthy to have a negative view of ourselves. And there’s an interesting tide turning in our culture that is actually encouraging women to embrace who they are and to view themselves in a positive, constructive way.

“But I just can’t do it,” you may think. “I really am fat. That’s just the way it is. And I hate it and am trying to do something about it. Hopefully things change…”

Please understand: your self-image goes way deeper than just calling yourself fat. What you are doing is actually belittling your self-worth. What you’re also saying is that not only it OK for you to call yourself that, but that other people can also call you that as well.

Image by Meg Gaiger

Image by Meg Gaiger

There’s a difference between accepting the reality of a situation versus your true identity. Saying “This is fat” is vastly different than saying, “I am fat.” (or insert whatever physical issue you have with yourself, that feature of you that whenever you think about it causes you to feel totally unvaluable). One is accepting something that perhaps needs to change due to health needs and personal aspirations; the other is setting your person at a negative identity standard.

Ok, for my height and age I know I’m 30 pounds overweight and I need to get down to a safe target weight because anything over that at risk for future heart disease” or “I’m at 25% body fat and I want to challenge my body and mind to get down to 18%“: both of those are challenging and goal oriented. But once you attach personal worth to either of those phrases you have fallen into a trap of control and fear. Can you see the difference? One is objective. The other says I’m not worthy enough unless I change.

I personally have gone through lots of physical ups and downs: the chubby, awkward middle school age, to the fit high school athlete, to gaining weight due to emotion struggles and depression, to again losing weight and gaining muscle unlike any other time in my life, which led me to become a kickboxing fitness trainer and motivator. I’ve gone through these cycles myself (and continue to do so) which for me have been usually tied to some emotional issue or crisis. I have also watched others go through the same or similar cycles. And let me tell you something, your waist size will never change how you feel about yourself. It is always a mental choice.

Why is this so important? Perhaps you don’t realize the fight for womanhood in the world, perhaps you don’t realize that the freedom fought for by tens of thousands of those in service for our country includes your freedom to be equal, included, and valued.

Maybe you don’t know that in most of the world women are culturally preached to be what you flippantly call yourself everyday: stupid, fat, incapable, dirty, lazy, ugly, worthless, unvalued, undeserving.

Maybe you don’t realize that not only is there verbal degradation to women in other cultures, but also honorable practices of rape, domestic violence, honor killings, genital cuttings, sex trafficking, and slavery.

What you have is a privilege. You have no right to call yourself less than what you’re worth. So why do you discard your freedom, why do you disdain your freedom? While you may think that you are setting standards of humility, you are actually practicing a most selfish attitude.

You were made for so much more.

You see, this could be an intervention before your beliefs become your living reality, because once you believe that I’m just fat, that’s all I’ll ever be, and nobody wants me, and I don’t deserve anything, and nothing good will ever come from me or to me, then you set yourself up to live in total misuse and abuse. That means that people mistreating you isn’t a problem. Or that you accepting verbal mistreatment isn’t a problem. Or that you being raped isn’t a problem. Or that your boyfriend beating you isn’t a problem. Or that your boss manipulating you isn’t a problem. Or that other people hating you isn’t a problem.

Do you realize that the success and expansion of our cities and nation is truly impacted simply by your self-perception? How you view yourself will spread and it will become an ideal of others around you, like a virus. Look at history; there is no culture that has thrived that has also demeaned and misused women. Instead it shows decline.

Maybe you were rejected by some guy for some other attractive woman. Maybe you were cheated on in favor of the “hot” girl. Maybe your husband chooses porn over you. Maybe you feel like you can’t get noticed or a date unless you look or dress a certain way or have a certain body figure.

Yeah, I get it. Two hands raised. It rots. But let me tell you something: How someone treats you says more about them then it does about you. How someone treats you says more about them then it does about you. If you’re rejected by someone, that says NOTHING about you and EVERYTHING about them. Your value is never determined by some other person. I know it hurts, but quite simply they don’t really know you (or themselves, for that matter). Please, I beg you, believe this.

If you believe you are not valuable, then you will never accomplish anything valuable because you have nothing to offer of value to this world.Bully


However, if you believe you are valuable, and worthy, and accepted, and beautiful as is, then you can in return offer that to each person you encounter. And then you can start influencing lives, and then you start living your dreams, and then you start living with purpose. It’s going to look different than everyone else’s, than mine, than your family’s. We often get confused that if we live intentionally and on purpose that it has to be on a stage and written on a blog and shared thousands of times on Facebook. False. Influence happens one-on-one and social media doesn’t need to see or know about it.

Next time you off-handedly think or say, “I’m fat,” rethink your statement and verbally speak something affirmative about yourself. Or surround yourself with someone who will. Yeah, it might sound silly. But I believe that life and death is in the power of the tongue and your verbal words have much deeper impact than you will ever imagine. Word by word, day by day, change your system. Search out your identity. Because until you believe it for yourself these words are just smoke and ashes.

It’s taken me a lot of thinking, and praying, and reading as I’ve worked through this thing called identity. Welcome to the constant struggle of my life. Some readings I’ve found helpful are “Fight Like A Girl” by Lisa Bevere and the book of Ephesians, chapters 1-3. And seriously consider what it means to be a child of God because ultimate identity is understanding why you’re here and who you were originally intended to be, and that is a treasured, valuable daughter in Christ, with God your Father!

Pretty mind blowing if you ask me.

And please, feel free to share this message with others. It’s not always an easy story to tell, but it’s worth the transparency.

April Fools! You’re Not Who You Think You Are!

Have you ever had an April Fools joke pulled on you before?

I mean, a really good one. Where you were all in and totally believing and then… the truth came out.

You didn’t win an all-expense paid vacation to the Bahamas. Your work computer didn’t mysteriously burn to ashes overnight. Your mom didn’t get a belly-button piercing.

And you have that sigh, like, oh man. You totally had me going; I was wrong the whole time.

I feel like in the past week or so I’ve had that feeling, that I now understand a truth that I somehow got confused for so long. This new understanding has set me free.

And that truth is in the power of names. What I’ve been called. What I’ve called myself.

I have unearthed some names that I have been called. Names that I chose to allow to hurt me. Names that sent me for an emotional roller coaster of despair and insecurity.

Names like, you are worthless.

You are stupid.

You are inconsiderate.

You are unloving.

You are ugly.

You are fat.

You are unattractive.

You are dumb.

You are pathetic.

You are a lazy bastard.

You are a bitch.

You are poor.

You are mediocre.

You are a loser.

And that’s not even counting the names that I have told myself again and again. Names like fearful, failure, inadequate, shallow, hopeless, lonely, weak, dirty, prideful, and deceitful.

but, um…

April Fools!

That’s not me.

And I’m here to proclaim right now that no one can ever make me anything, including myself.

I am exactly what Christ says I am and I have a really righteous sense of I don’t care what you think about me.

Because me only caring what Christ thinks about me actually frees me to sacrifice myself for you. I love you too much to care what you call me.

Let me tell you who I really am.

I am Chosen.

I am Precious.

I am Loved.

I am Clean.

I Am Fearfully and Wonderfully Created.

I am Beautiful.

I am Bold.

I am Worthy.

I am Holy.

I am Without Fault.

I am Joyful.

I am Secure.

I am Victorious.

Because I’m in Christ. And if there is no condemnation, why would I repeat and believe that first list to myself as if it were truth? It’s not. ever. List 1= lies. List 2= truth.

We call it identity. And Ephesians Chapters 1-3 will turn your world upside-down if you read it aloud about yourself. Do it. Seriously.

I used to repeat List 1 so much to myself, including themes like guilty, ashamed, and broken. And I thought I was learning learning truth about myself and God by doing that.

Only problem is, if Jesus only calls me names from List 2, why would I exercise the arrogance to call myself a name that he believes is unworthy of me?

See, when I decided to allow my coworker’s comment to me about being a lazy bastard to injure me and control my emotions, I was actually agreeing with him and giving him power over me. Again, no one can ever make me anything unless I first give permission.

Things have changed. completely. I now see myself as the gift that God intended me to be. You see, when I was living under the lies of List 1, I couldn’t be a gift to anyone. Who gives dirty gifts like that?

However, now that I am living in the reality of who I really am, I’m free to gift myself away. My happiness and my cleanness and my security can be given to others in abundance. Because it’s a really good thing. And people find joy in good gifts.

Here’s where the tipping point for me was: recently, right when I was at the brink of grasping my identity, a friend referred to me as a World Changer. And that sealed it for me. I heard it proclaimed and affirmed by someone else. And you know what happened? I got to name a friend at church last night a World Changer, and I have a sneaky suspicion the domino effect is going to keep happening to others.

So here’s the final truth thought: the power of life and death is in your tongue. When you speak negative names to people, it’s not just being mean; it’s proclaiming lies. Please, don’t do that. Let’s proclaim truth. See past the brokenness and call out the potential. It could change someone’s life today.

Let’s start renaming.

Because you are not a lonely, insecure student; you are Renowned Royalty.

Because you are not a worthless parent; are you Loving and Compassionate.

Because you are not an adulteress; you are a Beautiful, Accepted Daughter.

Because you are not a porn addict; you are a Chosen, Invaluable Son.

Because you are not unwanted and lonely; you are Desirous and Complete.

So let’s upset this day and get real about who we really are.

And I’d say that’s a pretty good April Fools to boot.

What Saved Me

I just remembered.

I just remembered what saved me.

A year ago, in the midst of my purposelessness and confusion and frustration, right before I moved back to Greenville, somehow this video came across my path.

and I haven’t been the same since.

I’ve never before wept over the Gospel like I did when I saw this. God speaks to us in different ways at different seasons in our lives. And this is one way he did for me, and may do for others.

But in the middle of my hopelessness, when I felt I had lost everything, my dreams, plans, hopes, drive, personality, desires– when all seemed lost, the Gospel walked up. And, it seemed, for the first time in my life, I wanted it. I needed it. I had to have it or I would die. I couldn’t go on living defeated. I am a victor in Christ. I wanted it so badly and I knew it was my only hope to make it to the next day. and the next. and the next.

Did it encourage me? yes.

Did it excite me? yes.

Yet was I then completely at rest and secure and “in the light” and happy? no, not really.

It took a while. a long while. He showed me the feast and then has slowly piece by piece fed me over the past year so that recently for the first time in a very long time, I’m actually at rest. Yes I’m different, yet I feel like “I’m back.” Some sort of recovery maybe. I guess those prayers I prayed 1 1/2 years ago actually were effective. It just took longer than expected. and more than I dreamed.

Oh, and it’s not over yet. just wanted to clarify that for you. This one’s got a ways to go, that’s for sure.

Look at what I’ve accomplished! I’m worth it!

and then this straight-up slapped me in the face.

I read this specific section about 1-2 weeks ago as I’ve been progressing through Jesus + Nothing = Everything. The book in itself has been rocking my system of thinking and God has used it recently as one of the many means to show me my legalistic thought patterns.

Identity has been a huge struggle for me, specifically during the past 1 1/2 years. Who am I. What is worth. Where is my purpose. What must I do. How much is enough. Where is freedom. Is there hope.

Who will deliver us.

Paul Zahl authors his book with those exact words and Tullian uses this section in his book to knife deep into hearts obsessed with performance:

If I can do enough of the right things, I will have established my worth.

Identity is the sum of my achievements. Hence, if I can satisfy the boss, meet the needs of my spouse and children, and still do justice to my inner aspirations, then I will have proven my worth. There are infinite ways to prove our worth along these lines.

The basic equation is this: I am what I do. It is a religious position in life because it tries to answer in practical terms the questions, Who am I and what is my niche in the universe? On this reading, my niche is in proportion to my deeds. In Christian theology, such a position is called justification by works. It assumes that my worth is measured by my performance. Conversely, it conceals, thinly, a dark and ghastly fear: If I do not perform, I will be judged unworthy. To myself I will cease to exist.”

Do you see any freedom in that kind of thinking? Nope. nada. zilch.

Honestly, I am still wrapping my mind around this. I haven’t arrived. But I don’t really think that’s the point. We read that and think, “Ok, so I guess I need to work on my identity and find it in Christ alone.”

That’s. Impossible. There is no hope in that thinking and the whole phrase is a ridiculous oxymoron.

But, really, what am I to do? Who will deliver me if I can’t “make” my identity to be only in Christ? God, if you don’t step in and intervene, then I am lost. I cannot be free from performance unless I with broken hands cling to the performance of Another. Teach me what this mindset practically looks like because I cannot go in to work tomorrow with the perspective that I have been believing for so long now.

Somehow, someway, I want my life to stand up and shout, “Look at what Jesus has accomplished! He’s worth it!”