Handle With Care (Unless You’re Jason Bourne)
By Janel Breitenstein
Stereotyping is hard not to do … Because we all have to.
We think it’s cool when spies do it in movies, or maybe lawyers performing jury selection. They assemble seemingly innocuous clues and jump to brilliant conclusions.
Think Jason Bourne: “I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs 215 pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is the cab of the gray truck outside ...”
We think, That guy’s got skills.
And really, all of us are gathering clues to determine next steps:
Do I think my kid’s coach is just affectionately warm, or creepy?
That woman has her head covered. Guessing she’s Muslim.
Her ring finger is dented in—but no ring.
But obviously stereotypes get us into trouble when they look like racism. Ageism. Sexism.
And when it’s not the Matt Damon-cool kind? It corrodes a marriage. Because stereotypes are far more than just our words or minds. They arise from our hearts (Matthew 12:34).
Thankfully, as a society, it’s become un-classy to stereotype women. No one wants to be the little wife, or shoved into the category of “too ambitious to be healthy (for a woman).” Hopefully both spouses are eager to serve, whether in the form of getting a spouse a cup of coffee or balancing the checkbook.
Yet I’ve noticed men-bashing is more in vogue. Even Christian women might throw out, “But y’know, he’s a guy, so…” Finished off with a shrug that reads, what can you expect?
Stereotypes, whether from trendy personality assessments or wardrobe appraisals, are only helpful as far as they’re used as tools to understand and connect.
Our stereotypes should unlock dialogue rather than bolting shut conversation.
Are the ways we speak of each others’ categories—genders included—unifying us? Or dividing us?
Do declarations like “you always” or “you never” truly solve our problems, or create more?
Unless you’re Jason Bourne—shed the stereotypes.
The good stuff: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24)
Action points: Ban gender-stereotyping—even in jest—from your family’s dialogue. When you’re tempted to roll your eyes at your spouse’s gender or personality categories, remember none of us is ever one way all the time.
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