More than a label

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
Psalm 139:14BreathCapturesPhotograph

Most of our labels for people tend to be global:
genius, midget, homosexual, giant.
~ ELLEN LANGER, Mindfulness

So I labeled the scruffy man with longer hair in the corner of the room in the wheelchair as “the man in the wheelchair.” I automatically had a stereotype to squeeze him into.

That’s how prejudices work. I have friends I introduce as “the sweet one” or “the sports fanatic” or “the health nut.”

But who wants to be a label, even if it’s a good one?

To be a “paraplegic” or a “diabetic,” or to be “too fat” or “too thin,” suggests that there is one ideal way to be a human being.

But Jesus saw with different eyes.
Ever notice when Jesus healed people, he didn’t use a one-size-fits-all approach?

  • He touched the hand of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:30-31).
  • He touched the eyes of two blind men in Capernaum (Matthew 9:29-30).
  • He put his fingers in the deaf man’s ear in Decapolis and after spitting, touched his tongue (Mark 7:33).
  • He spit on the eyes of the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:23).
  • He made mud for the blind man’s eyes in Jerusalem (John 9:6-7).
  • And he laid hands on many others.

I’m sure he would have seen the man in the wheelchair as much more than “the man in the wheelchair.”

I finally did, too. Once the gentleman started talking and interacting with others around us, I saw him as witty, as independent, as compassionate. There is no stereotype for people in wheelchairs any more than there is a stereotype for people out of them.

Typically when we try to overcome prejudice we try to look for similarities to help us shed the stereotype.

But what if we do the opposite?
What if we look for distinctions instead?

We all are handicapped, but we are not our handicaps.

I want to notice the differences that make you uniquely you.
You’re not a label. Neither am I.

We are more. Much more.

* * *

Thoughts sparked from chapter 9—Decreasing Prejudice by Increasing Discrimination—in Ellen Langer’s Mindfulness. Join the conversation at The High Calling.

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