Just one look. A glimpse. A glance. A peek. And our imagination starts running wild. If possible, our interpretation and perception of what is placed on our laps is now portrayed as a footstool for appraisal. For every one of us, at least there’s been a moment or two of intolerant and superficial judging. And within another degree, it is transformed into a battlefield of suspicion or dislike.
Imagine THIS: It is Monday morning, you are at the gas station, minding your own business and a certain hype outrageously-clothed lady walks up to you, all the essence of her womanhood displayed in parade soliciting. She looked you over and smiled over her loud popping bubble gum now stained with her red lipstick and asked for directions! What comes to your mind immediately? Did you quickly tighten the hold on your wallet or just quickly labeled her?
Imagine THAT: On a Friday evening, by the entrance of a coffee shop is a young man in dirty tattered over-size jeans, his grey shirt, dirty with missing buttons, probably due to an organized gang-fight or survival on the street, his exposed chest crowded and begging for a visit to any available hygiene-clinic, there’s a strong rancid odor around him, he’s probably a homeless retard on drugs or struggling to get off it. He approaches you with his arms spread out, toothless smile and looking lost! Money? Food? Or a friendly hug? He’s looking at you questioningly…What Do You Do?
We have all been there. Our devoted posture of Immaculacy, Pureness and Self-righteousness. We give a first look at someone we assume to be not of the benchmark and immediately we set a guard around ourselves and step up with a higher approach of self dis-favor.
Sometimes, even so spiritual as thanking God for not being in that person’s shoes. But really… if anything and we are sincere with ourselves, we are truly the ones with the issue of intolerance, prejudice and unfairness. Not the other party. Why? ‘Like they know any better? That’s why they are more approachable, even during their storm!
Stereotyping leads to racial prejudice when people emotionally react to the name of a group, ascribe characteristics to members of that group, and then evaluate those characteristics. It reflects expectations and beliefs about the characteristics of members of groups perceived as different from one’s own, prejudice represents the emotional response, and discrimination refers to actions.
So, there’s a proverb about judging people I grew up with, from my Mother’s hometown of Delta State – (in her Ebu language): “We are ever aware and mindful of people we think we know and love, but we can never be sure of other people or a stranger’s love or feelings for us” – and till now, She will reminiscence and still talk about the importance of accepting and loving a stranger in distress – because you can never tell their story, until you are told.
But because my first visit to the shelter required me reading books and watching documentary on teenagers with stories of life on the streets, sex addiction, graffiti etc. That prepared me and took away all that was supposed to send me running back to my car or to a pity party zone. What’s inside the minds of the people we ‘hang and dismiss” is deeper and commanding than we can ever imagine. Their stories changes with a look at their heart.
Their acceptance to recovery and salvation is far genuine compared to an everyday God fearing believer. Because they have wounds that are already open for all to see. What else is there to hide? Just a word of assurance, a term that defines their past, a hug that could be cold outwardly, yet comforting inside, a bible verse that could pretentiously be ignored while you’re there, but a remedy at night when crisis begins. A firm hand shake rather than a scrutinizing look of disgust, repulsion and antipathy. Stereotype keeps people from processing new or unexpected information about each individual, thus biasing the impression formation process.
Today, I am encouraging someone to reach out of their standard! to approach and love a stranger without boundary! Instead of loving the person and hating the sin, we treat people out of our norm as not worthy of our love or God’s love. We apply our morals to their lives and fight against their freedoms because of our beliefs. How else will they know our God? If not through our works!
May God help us all!
“Who say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.” These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all the day.