It’s funny how we tend to loop humans into a group in our minds. Whether it be by race, occupation, personality, or even gender, our society brings us up to believe certain things about certain groups of people. But we can’t put all the blame on society. As much as we are loath to admit it, we do just fine stereotyping on our own without society’s help.
For years I grew up looping all men into one category. I thought that all guys were snooty, never listened to women, thought women were weak . . . you get the picture. Fortunately God allowed most, if not all my ideas about guys to be trounced by giving me several amazing guy-friends. Even then, I tend to try looping them into a category so I can understand them. So I will know how to respond in certain situations. So I know how to be the best friend I can be.
I think that’s one of the main reasons we tend to stereotype. The human race is beautifully diverse and complex. However, when it comes to establishing any type of relationship with others we want to try to understand them. Our small minds can’t comprehend each individual human in their entirety, so we try simplifying them. Categorize them and compare them to others we know. It makes our job simpler. If everyone likes cars, our conversations can be about cars. Christmas gifts are car-related. Jokes are filled with making fun of Priuses (sorry to any Prius-owners) and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over Subarus. (Yes, I am from the Pacific Northwest.) When someone comes in who doesn’t like cars, or who would much rather talk about politics or horses, then it throws us out of a loop and we then have to find another category.
A good example is engineers. As far as I know, I have never liked math. All I knew about engineers for at least 16 years was that they loved math and were math-whizzes. In my all-infinite wisdom, I assumed that all engineers love math and thus were all boring individuals who wore glasses and sat at their desks studiously working and never laughing day after day. Imagine my surprise when I joined the work force and met engineers who not only did not wear glasses, but were also rather pleasant to be around and laughed at least as much as I did! Unfortunately just because I have met a few fun engineers does not mean that I do not try to stereotype them into some kind of group. (They all still like math to some degree – gross.)
Stereotyping in and of itself is perfectly legal and normally acceptable. I think the greatest fault in it is that it de-glorifies God’s ability to create individual people who are each special in their own way. It is okay to try to understand people, and it is okay to find interests across multiple parameters. What is not okay is to deindividualize people and start thinking that they are all like you or all like one person. Everyone has their own personality, their own interests, their own quirks that make them them.
Thank the Lord for diversity. If all engineers had fallen under my stereotype, what a crazy world that would be!
“In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.” – Richard Baxter