Beyond dualisms and stereotypes

Journalist, actor and humorist Robert Benchley once said: "There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don't." These days, almost everyone does. We seem addicted to dualistic and either/or thinking. Such thinking draws line of separation between people, creates and maintains hierarchies of worth and value, and fosters feelings of inferiority and superiority: blue collar or white collar, polyester or wool, labor or management, Republican or Democrat, black or white, brown or white, male or female, single or married, rich or poor, literate or illiterate, healthy or sick, old or young, sinner or saint. We label ourselves and each other, and those labels hide what is truest and most important about human beings.

We don’t have to view each other through dualistic lenses. We can, instead, see one another more generously, more individually, and more graciously—a way of seeing which, as a Christian, I would call “with the eyes of Jesus.” From this point of view, everyone of us individually and all of us together are created in the image of God and of infinite value and worth. We have dignity and value which are independent of our background, experience, achievements and failures. And, if we believe that each of us has value regardless of superficial differences, we will take the time and care to hear the details of one another’s stories, learn of one another’s strengths and wounds, see one another’s potential and possibility, and feel the contours of one another’s dreams and needs.

Our essential identity is not found in our genetics, our race, or our family of origin; we are not defined by the houses we live in, the cars we drive, the jobs we have, and the amount of money in our bank accounts. We are not locked-in by our prejudices, biases, and fears; we are not trapped by our mistakes, failures, and sins. We can see and hear ourselves and one another beyond dualisms and stereotypes. We can discover the beauty and wonder of unique and individual people. Such discovery is the precondition for a better and more peaceful world.