I got stereotyped recently. Actually, the word used was “demographic.”
I was of a certain demographic.
I took it wrong and then tried to see it for what it was, but the truth is, it left me feeling crusty. I felt labeled. Pigeon-holed. Put into a box. Truthfully, I know the person had no intention of me taking it as I did…
Yeah. I’m a white American woman, a pastor, wife, mom, nearing middle-age, house-wife, SAHM, creative, and I blog about stuff.
But mostly, mostly, mostly…I’m a soul.
You are, too.
I’m other things, too, hats I wear and roles I play. We all are. I could list them just to make myself feel better, because that sentence two sentences back isn’t bad stuff at all. It’s great and beautiful and I ROCK all of those things most days and FLOP the other most days.
It’s just that I hate labels because they snuff out, strangle, and have the potential to hold us back from curiosity and discovery and wonder and creation and God’s goodness and love over us. Labels brand us into camps and clubs and exclusive groupings where inclusive isn’t a thing.
I hate labels because I try diligently not to use them. I even hate t-shirts or clothing that spews big company brand names.
God created us in His image and since there are 7 billion people on earth,
that’s pretty multi-faceted, I would say…
creation not meant to be put into a box.
We are souls, yet we label ourselves, and we label one another. We want so badly for everyone and everything and every belief and every action to fit neatly into boxes and categories, mostly for a sense of control and frame of reference.
So we put others there.
But when someone puts us there, it doesn’t feel right.
“You don’t know me…”
We think we know others by where they are born, the color of their skin, the neighborhood they live in or church or mosque or temple or wherever that they worship, or don’t worship. We label others by the clothes they wear, commas behind their names, years of education, income. We even label in fun or to “further understand” by the plethora of personality tests out there.
How can anyone know us unless we share?
How can I learn about you unless I ask?
As readers of social media, we think we can sum a person up simply by looking at their pictures or reading some of their words.
And this is part of the death God spoke of in the Garden…a wielding of labels and stereotypes and demographics, things that brand us and potentially polarize, rather than what brings us together.
Empathy. The practice of walking in another’s shoes, asking ourselves, “How would that make me feel?”
The funny thing is, the “demographic” that “demographic-ed” me was an angsty millennial on a journey of freedom and discovery. And I stereotyped the person for labeling me…and so the circle goes, if we allow it.
The person asked me if I wanted to be a preacher…because sometimes I write like a preacher.
All I could say was, “Shit.”
Then the angsty millennial said something refreshing, “Not all preachers are bad!”
And there I did it again…I “demographic-ed” preachers with know-it-alls and opinionated truth-shovers and snippets from my past where preachers kept taking up collections and trying to get the same congregation “saved” week after week and preached sermons to cover-up their own fears and where altar calls got more and more specific in order that no one would be left sitting in their seats.
The truth is, I love preaching! Actually, mostly, I love sharing God’s Good News with any and every soul I meet. And I love hearing their stories.
Nope. Not all preachers are bad…and not all demographics and stereotypes are the whole picture.
These and other lessons I’m learning…