Seeing and Stereotypes
Awhile back our family was sitting around after supper talking with a friend and the subject of homeschooling came up. Our friend told of us her experience with homeschoolers where she lived and how she would never homeschool. It didn’t help that one homeschool family had told her that getting her bachelor’s degree was a waste of time since she would just be getting married anyways. We listened and asked questions. Then I asked her if she knew that we had home schooled. I explained to her how our first born was lacking in confidence and how homeschooling had helped her with that. My husband added that our family liked the flexibility it gave our family. We loved homeschooling but for us it was just a season. We told her we understood where she was coming from because we had met all kinds of homeschoolers. Homeschoolers often get stereotyped but if you went to one of their conventions you would see the vast spectrum not only in their philosophy of education but in how they dress. It was a great conversation. We did not try to convince our friend that she should homeschool one day or that she was wrong in her opinion. We just wanted her to see a different side to homeschooling. We listened to her story and told her ours. It is listening to each others stories that we can begin to see why people think what they do and begin to break down the stereotypes that we like to put people into.
Everyone of us has stereotypes whether good or bad. It helps us to make sense of the world. More often than not stereotypes cause problems because we assume something is true that isn’t. Stereotypes can be dangerous. He is black therefore he… She is rich therefore she… We think we know another person because of one or two things we know about them. Here in Central Asia, I live under the stereotype of being a Christian and what they think that means. To many, a Christian is somebody from the west who has loose morals and is mostly likely rich. Many of their opinions are based on the movies coming out of the west. Being asked if you are a Christian is a loaded question which is why many of us will reply that we are followers of Jesus. How can I help break down the stereotype? It may sound cliche but by living out the life God wants me to live. When I listen to their stories and tell them mine, we both learn. When I love on my husband and children, they see something different. When I hold my students to a high standard and don’t tolerate cheating, I challenge some of their assumptions. Just moving to this country and living here with our family speaks volumes. On my end, I need to make sure I am not seeing the people God sends my way as stereotypes but as people uniquely made by God with their own story to tell. They may be Muslim. They may be poor. They may have stereotypes about me. I need to listen and love and hopefully the Jesus in me will shine brightly. Some days I feel like I am breaking down the stereotype and other days adding to it. Hopefully today will be one of the good days.
Dear God, Thank you for your grace and mercy each day. Thank you that you come to each of us individually. Thank you for your son and how he broke down so many stereotypes during his short time on earth. Be with us. Help us to listen and learn. Help us to reflect you in all things.