Stereotypes exist for a reason. As a culture, we are obsessed with categorizing everything. We are walking, talking label makers. From beliefs to affiliations to race to politics, we all belong in a proverbial box. This box must be labeled so everyone knows exactly where to put it. The miscellaneous box creates chaos and confusion. Oh no!! What room do we put that in? And if there’s no label at all, forget about it. Just call the bomb squad. Is a tomato a fruit or vegetable? Who cares!!! Just put it in your mouth! Bill told us a rose by any other name would smell as sweet and he’s right. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be put in a box. No thank you.
We are one thing or another. We’ve gotta pick a side. We stand for one thing or we fall for everything. This is the double-lined, no grey area society we live in. How quick we are to forget that we are complex beings who are constantly absorbing information, ideas, thoughts, and opinions. We can’t always be on one side or the other. Sometimes we relate to something on several levels. Sometimes a simple yes or no doesn’t do it justice. So don’t draw a line because I’ll probably stand right on it. Some lines aren’t opaque, some are perforated, others zig-zag, and some are so vague you almost forget they are there.
Please excuse me while I crawl out of the box I’ve been put in and use it to stand on. What I am cannot be defined. You may look at me and think you already know me but the truth is, I cannot be deciphered with a glance. My Facebook profile is not my autobiography. My Instagram is missing a million pictures that tell the whole story. My thoughts are much more elaborate than 140 characters. You don’t know what makes me cry, or laugh, or stressed, or irate, or passionate. You don’t know about my favorite song or what I fear most in life or why I love Shakespeare so much. You have no idea why I don’t eat red meat or why I want to tear January 2 off of the calendar for good. And just because I speak passionately about a particular topic doesn’t mean I’m unsupportive or disinterested in what I’m NOT talking about. I am more than a few sentences. I am bigger than a penciled in circle. I am so much more.
I was a part of a Christian drama group and ministry my senior year of high school. I was caught drinking and, among other consequences, had to have a meeting with the director. During this meeting the director looked at me and said, and I quote, Jesus spits out lukewarm water. It’s an abridged quote from the Book of Revelation. A few Bud Lights brought the validity of my entire faith into question. And for the record, I was caught in a grapevine sort of way, not a stomach pumping cops had to call my parents kind of way. I broke the rules, yes. I was underage, yes. Although I’m pretty sure my dad is the only person I’ve ever met who didn’t have a drink before he turned 21. Fact. I don’t recall anything about drinking being etched into any stone tablet. And, for the record, monks pretty much invented hopped beer and, to this day, make a living from it. Not to mention Chartreuse. Go figure. I’m not justifying or condoning it, I’m just making a point.
But the wrongs and rights of drinking aren’t what I remember from that conversation. I remember words being taken out of context in an effort to make me “choose a path” and feel like I was less of a Christian. It’s ironic that within the same cover, there are words that discourage judgement and predict our tendency to make mistakes and color the pages with forgiveness. Funny how those truths weren’t convenient for the agenda at hand and swept under the rug. I’ll tell you this: I don’t regret the drinking but I certainly regret not standing up for myself.
My point is, we can be a lot of different things at the same time. And before anyone gets into a huff, because you’re OCD and crave classification or your mind just might melt, this is not to say we get to contradict ourselves or join bandwagons or choose truths when it is convenient. This is not a stand for the indecisive, the washy-washy, or the hypocrites. You can’t wear a Cubs hat and cheer for the Cardinals. I’ll dump my beer over your head. You can’t say you’re allergic to gluten and then when I tell you there is bread in your meatballs say, that’s okay. It’s not okay and you’re a liar. You can’t choose when the rules apply and for whom. This is not an excuse to be anything other than steadfast in what we do believe.
Rather, this is a plea for understanding, for unity, and for seeing eachother as individuals instead of a collective. To see her and him instead of them. And sometimes our opinions are greeted by others of the same and there’s a certain joy in being surrounded by those who feel the same way you do. But that specific bond that unites us does not mean your other beliefs or actions define me as well.
So I challenge you to rid your mind of anything preconceived or generalized. Be better than that, be smarter than that. Each of us is our own story. There is and will never be another one like it. The same goes for every person you meet. Forget everything you think you know. Get to know their story.