I found out the other evening I stereotype people. I never wanted to be the kind of individual who does that, but I did it. I went outside when it got dark, because I was excited to see meteor showers. As I sat huddled in my chair, all wrapped up in my blanket, the night settled around me, the meteors did not shower and I found myself listening to the sounds of apartment life. The people below me kept opening and shutting their sliding door. No idea what that was all about. A LOT of cars came and left the parking lot. It is a busy place at night apparently. I never noticed that before.
Then my neighbor and his friend stepped out on his balcony and they were talking. “Ahh,” I thought, “I’m probably going to hear a drug deal go down.” So I eavesdropped, which I don’t usually do. But, the meteors were not appearing and I was getting a bit bored. After a few minutes I realized I did not really understand their conversation - and the reason was I was expecting a drug-related exchange - which they were not having. When I realized they were not talking about drugs, I became curious and I really started paying even more attention to them, because their conversation did not make sense.
They were talking about when it is best to use the “night”. They agreed they both liked the “night” because it could be tricky and people did not see it coming. After a long discussion about the night, my neighbor’s friend insisted the best strategy is to not move the “queen” at all until the very end - of the game! And the light bulb went on- they were talking about Chess! Apparently they had just played a game of Chess. They agreed Chess was a far better game than Monopoly and made a plan to play again next week. And their crotchety old neighbor expected them to be dealing drugs. Good grief.
I was actually quite appalled at myself. Stereotyping bothers me because it forces people into boxes and limits potential. Often, people live up to the expectations others have for them and maybe that’s how stereotypes develop. Reality shows on television don’t help this situation, although I think some - like “Duck Dynasty” - help to eradicate some stereotypes; while others - like “Honey Boo Boo” - perpetuate stereotypes. Google “white trash family on TV” and see what comes up.
As a manufacturing term, to stereotype is good - because it ensures uniformity in parts which are being made. As a human ranking system, it is not so good. The definition of stereotype is: “A conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image.” Stereotypes are often hurtful no matter how you use them. Think about some common stereotypes - and I bet whatever comes to mind is somewhat derogatory toward the person being stereotyped. It is true people who belong to some groups tend to repeat behaviors, attitudes or actions which become known as stereotypical behavior - but even then to paint everyone in that category with the same brush does a disservice to the unique characteristics we all possess.
As part of the Christian community I have been put in the stereotypical “Christian” box many times and I resent that. I don’t especially want to listen to people swear; but it makes me uncomfortable when people do it and then feel they have to single me out and apologize. I think that makes the situation more awkward than the swearing itself. I am not easily offended but sometimes it offends me when people assume I am.
There have been occasions when I have had people preface conversations with, “Please don’t judge me, but...” Really? It isn’t my place to judge anyone - I have enough mistakes and situations of my own to deal with and I’m sorry if sometimes people are intimidated to share with me because they think I have some holier-than-thou attitude - that is a stereotype and it doesn't fit me. One thing I have learned is when I try to overwhelm people with laws from the Bible before they have felt loved by God it makes them run the other way, quickly.
It is one thing to speak with a Christ-following brother or sister about things he/she might be doing which are ungodly - I can hold them to a standard. It is quite another to expect the same from people who don’t have that relationship. I don’t do it. But, enough others do so it has become part of the stereotypical Christian.
I don’t want to be a stereotypical anything. I love outside-the-box thinking and am eager to try new ideas. It is too easy and safe to follow the expected course of action - I have to feel challenged by my life. And that's a good thing, huh? Because if you know anything about me, you know my life experiences have not been stereotypical.
Psalm 139:14 "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
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