I don’t know if I stereotype everyone I come in contact with, but just today I found myself stereotyping MEN. As I was sitting there having lunch with my two youngest children I overheard a conversation by a man who was basically saying some very disturbing and degrading stuff about a women while on the phone. I just sat there stunned hoping my children did not hear the whole conversation especially the part that was most disturbing.
I had to sit there for a moment and filter through my thoughts that spoke loud and clear that ALL men talked like that, and ALL men looked at women as objects. Immediately I thought to myself “Is this a stereotype?” Sure enough, it was!
Definition of Stereotype: a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.
I am definitely not perfect and in this moment I started to believe a stereotype about men in general based off this one incident with this ONE man. In the moment of realizing it was a stereotype I was able to back away from the lie that I was starting to believe about men in general.
It was a moment of freedom for me.
In that moment I realized that stereotypes are lies rooted in the pit of hell. The enemy would like nothing more than for us to put people in certain boxes and keep them there, not only that but also have a hostile spirit towards “these people” because of what one person did.
We are missing out on so much in this life and relationships are being torn apart by the stereotypes we place on people.
stereotypes are not from the Holy Spirit, and Jesus went around tearing down the assumptions the communities and religious leaders had about people. The ones being judged, hurt, mocked, and ostracized by others were the ones being set free, and they were being healed.
If our eyes are fixed on a stereotype based off of a past experience with one person, place, or thing, then we are not only judging the people who fall in this particular category, but we are also missing out on some really great ministry opportunities.
Lately I am looking to where I might hold some stereotypes in my heart and mind. As I let them go I can see my heart softening towards people I wouldn’t normally be sensitive to.
I remember one time having a parent teacher conference with one of my child’s teachers. My child at the time didn’t have really great grades. The teacher mentioned maybe not letting them watch so much TV, or letting them get on electronics would help them to improve on their grades. But little did she know we only have one TV in our house and the kids are only allowed to watch it on the weekends. Electronics? My children are only allowed on electronic devices on the weekends. I feel like the teacher basically stereotyped my child because their grades weren’t that great. This upset me because there was no real solution on what we could do to help them because every solution she gave me was based on an assumption, or stereotype she had of my child.
I’ve been stereotyped before because of my weight. I mean truly, if I eat a piece of candy, or drink a soda, people will just assume that’s why I have a weight problem. But if someone who is a “healthy” weight has soda in their house on a regular basis, or even candy, they do not have to endure the same judgement as I do. People just assume my home is filled with junk food, soda, candy, etc. But they truly have no idea because they have already stereotyped me because of my weight, and they have already placed judgement on not only me, but also my family.
I have lived my whole life breaking down stereotypes, and there seems to be no end in sight. Nothing hurts me more than to see people being ostracized because someone is not taking the time to get to know that person, and are instead basing their judgement off of them on whatever stereotype they have clung to in their heart and mind.
I believe stereotypes are a weapon of the enemy in order to breed disconnect, hatred, prejudice, pride, and isolation.
Stereotypes are truly a heart problem, and I believe it is a sin.
Here are three reasons why as Christians we need to stop stereotyping people:
You can’t connect with someone who has a hostile heart towards you. I can tell when my heart is hostile towards someone. It totally gets my heart pumping and the negative thoughts start swirling around in my head. Sometimes I will get prideful and think I am better than that person. I won’t retaliate, or make a comment that I really want to make, and deep down in my heart I will truly feel that my “self-discipline” makes me better than them. But the fact is, it is difficult to connect with someone who is hostile towards you for any reason whatsoever. Whether they are hostile towards you because of their own pride, or a stereotype they might have about someone who you remind them of, or even if they are jealous of you, it will be almost impossible to gain any sort of intimacy with them because you will literally be hitting your head against this wall of hostility. Not only that, but when someone tries to connect with you and all they feel is this wall of hostility then more than likely they will just walk away, or fight back.
This journey isn’t about you. Often we will live with a stereotype of someone out of complete fear that someone “like that” will hurt me again, or hurt me like they hurt “that other person.” A lot of times we can make this journey about how we are being treated, or that we feel unloved or unworthy of so much. As Christians we truly need to find healing for all of these things before we can go on to help other people. Jesus said to get the plank out of your eye so that you may help remove the speck of dust from your brother’s eye. Even finding healing isn’t about you! We are healed and set free so that we can heal and set others free. It has never been about living in a bubble or creating walls around our hearts. Stereotypes don’t bring this healing that multiplies itself. It’s very much about ourselves and self-preservation. The most painful thing about stereotypes is that we never get to know the individuals that are in our lives just because we don’t like the one thing we have decided to use to define them.
A prideful heart sets the standard for other people, while a humble heart lives under the standard of Jesus. We are so good at defining what is right and what is wrong. Today I was reading in Romans and it talked about how after Adam blatantly went against one of God’s laws, God still didn’t really hold it against the future generations (up until Moses came down from the mountain with the 10 commandments) because there was no law for them to break. But since Moses there are laws that we can break, and every single person has broken one of God’s laws. The law-breaker shouldn’t be making the laws, God already has His standard, and we have all fallen short. Only God Himself can provide the sacrifice in order to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. We need to step away from stereotypes because in essence we are setting a standard not set by God. In fact Galatians 3:28 says there is no Jew or Gentile, no male or female, neither slave or free – we are all one in Christ.
As Christians we hate it when people stereotype us. We all know what it is like to live up under the criticism and judgement of other people who simply do not know our heart because they simply do not want to know the heart of Jesus. We all know how difficult it is, then why do we do this to other people? It’s just easy to do because getting to know someone, and learning how to offer grace for everything that makes them different (instead of putting them into a box) takes a whole lot of faith and courage. We need to avoid stereotypes because we know how it feels and we know that there is no progress, and no sharing Jesus, if we are constantly stereotyping people.