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As a mom, I’ve been involved in many conversations about children. Sometimes they’ve been about weird or wacky antics (and boy do I have a few of those stories, many with pictures that may come in handy later!), or the latest virus making the rounds and its (ahem) symptoms. And, occasionally, the topic turns to only children. I usually just listen quietly, and it doesn’t take long until the familiar stereotypes pop up–self-centered, spoiled, unpleasant–or someones expresses the idea that being or having an only child is less than ideal. It’s always an awkward moment for me, being an only child myself. Do I say something and risk embarrassing them? Or do I keep silent and let them continue to hold their opinion? Each time I’ve chosen to speak up they’ve always said something like, “Oh, I never would have known you were an only child!”
I suppose I should be flattered, and it makes me feel good to bust the only child myth, but it got me thinking about other kinds of stereotypes. Especially ones about followers of Jesus. We’re often labeled as judgmental, hypocritical, exclusive, or elitist. While I know so many Christians who don’t fit that description at all, as a whole, our society has chosen those labels to define us. And sometimes, as followers of Jesus, we give credence to their labels with unthoughtful responses.
I was listening to a local Christian radio station the other day and the DJ was relating a story about a woman he had seen (or more accurately, heard) recently in a store. The woman was using some very colorful language, and there were lots of children around, prompting the DJ to express his disdain for her behavior over the airwaves. I know the DJ didn’t intend it to come across this way, but his comments smacked of judgment. Do I want my children exposed to an expletive-ridden tirade? No. But is it right for me to expect someone who is not a follower of Jesus to act like they are, and to cast judgment on them when they don’t? Jesus calls us to love people. And he draws people to himself through kindness. Let’s start busting some stereotypes by letting God’s love and kindness shine through us. Let’s surprise them when we don’t fit their stereotypes! 🙂