Whether we are sitting at a wedding, at the mall, in church, a restaurant, standing in a long line somewhere….wherever.
We are people watching.
For some of us, we make a game out of it. Names withheld. It is engaging. Sometimes inspiring, annoying, funny, or possibly even rude, if you are the one being watched. People watching is for all walks of life. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you can participate. See, I told you I know you’ve done it. Well, I did it too. (SN: I do NOT do this in church. I would much rather come up and chat with you….and I do!!)
In extreme cases (aka. boredom), I have been known to make up stories of those strangers. What? I’m a writer!!! Would you rather that I said, “I prayed for them?”…yeah, me too.
I recently discovered I did something else when at a friend’s wedding, I stereotyped. Yup, I confess, I put someone in a category of my choosing (aka, my understanding) based on how they looked, dressed, talked and lived their life. Don’t be shaking your head….you’ve done that too. It doesn’t condone stereotyping, it just makes us “not alone”.
Looks like we are going to walk this story out together, eh?
At this wedding, we decided to sit at a table with the only other couple we knew at the wedding. It was fine because the people who were supposed to sit there were absent anyway (in case any of you brides were getting miffed about wedding ettiquette gone ary). Ok, so as we joined our friends, there was another family at the table. It was a different family structure than we were used to, they appeared quite “together” and the stories they shared didn’t match their “stereotype”. As I listened, and learned and asked questions, I really enjoyed getting to know them. Yet inside my mind, there was a conflict going on. “Why did this whole thing seem so strange?”, I found myself asking later on. As I unpacked it with my husband, I realized that my flesh wanted to pigeon-hole them. My flesh wanted to decide that “I knew them already” (aka – judgement and stereotyping). Yes, my bad… and very wrong. Yes, I confessed it to God and He cleared my conscious.
As I talked this out with a friend of mine, who has knowledge of the psychology behind some of this, she reminded me that if we follow the evolutionary perspective of the human condition, we are conditioned to do it. Stereotype, that is. Realistically, if we got to know the story of every person at the mall, then we wouldn’t get anything else done in our day. So we choose to keep our thoughts ordered which sometimes means we want to put people in neat categories for our peace of mind.
That day we had a great conversation, but she had me at “evolutionary perspective”. Yuck. I don’t believe in evolution. I believe what the Bible says in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, GOD created the heavens and the earth…”.
If stereotyping is part of an evolving theory of the human condition, then I don’t want any part of it. I want to be “transformed by the renewing of my mind” (Romans 12:2). My human condition is prone to wander…and so is yours. But I am have been redeemed by the Blood of Jesus Christ and am being made new each day. Are you?
I choose to walk in that Truth…..will you join me?
So, “yes, I did it too. I am sorry, will you please forgive me?”
Thank you for journeying with me.