Every person on the planet has a story. Even if you were just born yesterday, you have the story of your birth. Some stories you may be able to guess and others take you completely by surprise. Even the stories that you may be able to guess will probably have a twist or two you didn’t see coming. Don’t ever assume that everyone is who or what they seem to be on the surface.
Take me, for example. People look at me and see no tats, no visible scars, no multiple piercings or purple hair and they think I’m milk toast. Conservative, middle-class, stay-at-home mom. A goody two-shoes even (I’ve been told that). People don’t generally cuss around me. My kids keep their “alternative lifestyle” friends away from me because I would be shocked and my delicate sensitivities offended! The list of ways that I am “protected” because of how I’m perceived could go on. Granted, I’m not a “rough around the edges” kind of person, but neither am I a delicate china doll.
I may not cuss as a rule, but I’ve heard every word in the book and have let things slip out a time or two. I may not live an “alternative” lifestyle, but I’ve had friends who do. I dated a Hell’s Angel, hung out with crack addicts, was homeless, have been sexually abused and was almost thrown off of a two-story balcony by an alcoholic husband. I’ve been married and divorced three times and used to party like it was 1999 well before it really was. I was no saint.
I think that’s the thing though, that was my past. My very distant past now. Jesus saved me from all that and my life has been very different since then. I have been married to the same amazing man for almost 30-years. We have had a wonderful life and, yes, I was able to be a stay-at-home mom to our two boys. I have become a different person. The person people see when they look at conservative, middle-class, stay-at-home mom looking me. I look the part. That’s where the stereotyping comes in. People assume that all I am is what I appear to be. That is true of no one. My scars are internal, and almost completely healed. No one sees them so unless they sit down and have a meaningful conversation with me, they never know they are there. They put me into a box, they stereotype me.
I think we all do it. I think it’s kind of human nature to want things to be neatly sorted for the most part. We want to have a sense of order and pigeon-holing people seems to give us a sense of that – if even a small sense. To be honest. I think that is unfair to everyone. We miss out on some amazing stories for one. We also miss the depth of a person, which can cause us to mistreat and even disrespect them. Maybe not in any really abusive way, but like thinking they can’t handle a certain situation because of your perception of them. I think that’s a little disrespectful and invalidating. You are assuming for starters and you know what they say about assuming – to assume makes an ASS out of U and ME. No one wants that.
I think life would be so much richer if we all treated each other as if there was more to us than meets the eye, because it’s true. We really DON’T know what struggles a person is going through or has BEEN through unless we know them closely. I guess what I’m getting at is this: Don’t judge a book by its cover or a person by what they wear or how they do their hair. Break out of the box. Be non-stereotypical and don’t stereotype. That’s easier said than done, I know. We can give it a shot though, yes? Since I very much do not like being stereotyped or pigeon-holed, I’m going to do my best to not do that to others.
Every person’s story has worth. Don’t devalue someone by disregarding that fact and stereotyping them.