As humans, we like to organize our world by placing things in categories. In order to create order, we group things together. Bugs with six legs are called insects, those with eight are arachnids. History is the study of past events whereas math deals with numbers and their relationships. We box things together in order to consider them as one unit and label them for easy reference. This is great for organizing physical things but when we start to do this with people, it can be detrimental.
Granted, the boxes people put us in and the labels we try to portray help shape our identities. But is it really who we are? Personally, I would like to bust out of a few boxes people have put me in because they don’t fully define me. Sometimes I’m proud of the labels attached to my name but sometimes, I wish people wouldn’t view me that way. When other people place expectations on us, we either feel pressured to conform to them or rebel against them. We all know what it’s like to have boxes and labels put on us, but have we thought about it from the other side?
Often, we’re so quick to place people in our categories of stereotypes and preconceived ideas that it hinders our ability to see people for who they really are. George MacDonald writes “We are all very anxious to be understood, and it is very hard not to be. But there is one thing much more necessary—to understand other people.” What if instead of dismissing people, because of the category we think they belong in, we looked for opportunities to love on them and find ways to understand them fully? What if we tried to extend grace to everyone like God did to us instead of being so quick to judge?
Maybe the guy who just ripped you up with criticism really just needs some encouragement and affirmation. Maybe the rude checkout lady has more going on than you can imagine and needs a friendly smile. Maybe that lazy and annoying co-worker could use a friend.
Let’s break down the boxes, rip the labels off, and try to understand the people around us.
In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. ~Phillipians 2:3b-4