Last weekend I was sitting alone waiting for a play to begin when a lovely woman sat beside me. Somehow we started talking about the plight of the poor in America. She and I had very different thoughts on how to deal with the issues. We were polite, tiptoeing around each other, careful not to offend. Neither of us mentioned candidates—though it was clear where we each stood. We didn’t argue. Instead, we searched for common ground.
You know what? We found it. We were both Christians, both cared deeply about the suffering we saw daily, and both passionate about wanting to help.
But when it came to our political beliefs, we were polar opposites.
I had a conversation the next day. This person, frustrated about something in the political arena, said, “Those liberals are all alike.”
I thought of that lovely ebony-skinned woman. She’d spoken passionately about the people she served. She wanted things to get better, just like I do. She was a liberal, no doubt, but she was beautiful, kind, tenderhearted, and sincere. Was she just like every other liberal in the world? I don’t think so.
Is the wealthy business owner I work with at the food pantry just like Donald Trump? Not at all.
Bring it closer to home, though. Are you just like your siblings and your parents? When you gather for family reunions, do you look around and think, we’re practically clones of each other? When you go to church, are you amazed and how everybody looks, acts, and believes the same?
Of course not. It’s so obvious that we’re all unique, and yet, how often do we hear it?
They’re all alike…
That kind of reasoning is intellectual laziness. It’s insulting not just to the people we’re talking about but to all humanity. It’s a slap in the face to the Creator, who made us each unique and in His image. Every single person has beliefs, ideas, opinions, and dreams, and those have been shaped by their families, their trials, their successes, their friends, their schools, their communities, and countless other things. Each human soul represents a beautiful story that began in the heart of God.
Yet I find myself slipping into that thinking sometimes. It’s so easy, isn’t it, to classify people? To disregard them?
I resolve to look beyond stereotypes to the people behind the masks. I resolve to believe that each of us has something unique and valuable to contribute, whether I agree with a person’s politics or his faith or his lifestyle. I strive to, like that sweet woman and I did, respect another person’s beliefs even if I don’t agree. And I resolve not to be offended when he doesn’t agree with me.
In short, I resolve to do my best to be ruled by love. And when I fail–which I do often–I resolve to keep trying.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (Quoted from BibleGateway)
How do you keep yourself from stereotyping people?
Have you ever felt like someone was stereotyping you?
Robin Patchen lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with her husband and three teenagers. Her third book, Finding Amanda, was recently named a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards and won the 2016 Bookstores Without Borders Lyra Award in the Women’s Fiction category. Its prequel, Chasing Amanda, is currently offered for free at all major retailers. When Robin isn’t writing or caring for her family, she works as a freelance editor at Robin’s Red Pen, where she specializes in Christian fiction. Read excerpts and find out more at her website, robinpatchen.com.