Friday, June 6, 2014

Stereotyping or Being Stereotyped

Being stereotyped is something that many of us have probably experienced. It's usually not a good feeling when this occurs. Whether you were given a part in a play because it "fit you perfectly," and you knew the context was negative, or you did not get a job you had hoped for because of preconceived ideas. It is difficult.

When you have an illness, special needs, or a child with one of these, stereotypes are common. I know that there is the assumption with Downs Syndrome that all people with this syndrome are happy all of the time. This can be true for the most part in many cases, but there are always exceptions. I met a lady who has a little girl who has a little girl with Downs Syndrome and does not have that personality. I think it was probably hard for her if people made this assumption, because she really had thought that with all of the other trouble it would be nice to have a child that was always happy.

With CHARGE syndrome, I find myself often stereotyping my own son. People are always saying kids with CHARGE are so stubborn. This may be the rule, and it is true with Trenton, but I can't use it as an excuse for him. We need to get past that and try to overcome the negative stubborn habits and turn them into a positive thing that will help him to overcome his problems.

I think cancer patients also struggle with stereotypes or generalizations. I've never been there, but I would imagine that most people have a general picture of cancer. The problem is that so many cancers are different. It's important not to make assumptions when talking to people going through this struggle.

People with learning disabilities, autism, or just different personalities can also be stereotyped. The problem with this is that the gifts of those with learning disabilities and autism often far outweigh their problems. There is such a broad range of issues, and some people really do not have as many problems as others. We should never treat anyone different because of a label.

I encountered an issue with this when applying for a job several years ago in regard to personality. It was a job selling books for a marketing company. I didn't know I was good at marketing at the time, but I did know I was an artist. To me, creativity was a bonus not a detriment. To the interviewer, this meant that I would not be able to the handle rejection from those to whom I was selling. It's sad but true that snap judgments are often made. I've worked for several years now as a marketing writer, so I guess it was that company's loss. I don't hold bitterness from this because it was God's plan and a way to teach me this lesson.

Thankfully, stereotypes do not define us. Labels are helpful tools, but can be used detrimentally. We must not stereotype, and we must not let others put stereotypes on us that we grow to believe. It is easy to let feelings of sadness grow as we see our children or feel ourselves being judged in this way. It is important for us to remember that the only opinion that truly matters is what God says. In His eyes we are sinners, but once we accept His free gift, we are sinners saved by His grace.

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