Labels. As humans we feel the need to put them on everyone. Republican/Democrat. Liberal/Conservative. Right Wing/Left Wing. Pro Life/Pro Abortion. Pro Choice/Anti Choice. Pro Gun Control/Anti Gun Control. Animal Rights Proponent/Hunter. Law Abiding Citizen/Criminal. Capitalist/Socialist. Evolutionist/Creationist. Pro Capital Punishment/Anti Capital Punishment. Evangelical Christian/Mainstream Christian. I could keep going, but I’m sure you get the picture. We use labels to define the people around us every single day. But are we correct in our assumptions? Do we know the individual we are labeling as well as we think we do?
Here is an exercise for all of us. Copy the labels above and think of a friend or relative that you think you know fairly well. Now circle each items as you believe it pertains to them. Now looking at the labels you have selected do you believe you have an adequate grasp on this person’s inner most thoughts and beliefs? If you do, then you, my friend, are guilty of stereotyping. I look at the list above and know if I had to choose “either or” labels for myself it would be a poor representation of me as a person. It would give absolutely no insight to my soul, my thought processes, my hopes, my fears. And yet we do this continuously to others, and then believe we “know them.”
I am a registered Republican, my son is a police officer, I love animals, and I am a member of an Independent Christian Church. Think you have me all figured out? You might be surprised! When I start to agree with every single thing that my political party, my favorite news station, or even my pastor says, I have quit thinking for myself and simply become a mouthpiece for others.
So the next time you are around a friend or relative who you believe holds very different views from yourself, take some time to talk, calmly, without an “us versus you” attitude, and find out what they really believe and feel. You may find that despite very different labels, you really do have a great deal in common in the end. And if not? Well then, maybe you can come to see that their worth as a person has little to do with the labels they wear.