We’re all the same and love is blind. ~ The Killers (Change Your Mind)
Five years ago, a few of us from my college were talking with a homeless man for a while, just listening to his story. He explained how a divorce with his wife eventually led to him being homeless. Another man we talked with flat out told us that he chose to be homeless and liked it more! He mentioned the freedom of having no bills or responsiblities. An intriguing perspective to say the least.
While in high school, my sister said that a guy told her he thought I was stuck up. I was floored and upset because of how opposite I was from that – I was painfully SHY. Shyness is often confused for egotism.
I know each of you have examples in your own life of your first impressions being completely wrong of others. It is still difficult not to put labels on people when they choose to label themselves. For example, those who dress goth, emo, thug, homeless, business, and ballet dancer are associating themselves with everyone else who dresses that way.
Labeling Others: Why Do We Do It?
Do you see how different the stories were of those homeless men? Why then, would we affix a single label to them that defines them in our minds?
Humans prefer to know things. We use science to try to understand everything about the world we live in. We want to know how that hummingbird is hovering so steadily and why puffer fish are so poisonous. Those examples have traceable causes. Hummingbirds flap their wings up to 90 times per second. Puffer fish are believed to get their poison from their diet, as scientists at Nagasaki University have bred poison-free puffer fish by controlling the fishes’ diet.
Did you know that hummingbirds (and other birds and insects) get lift from both the down stroke and the up stroke of their wings?
Our desire to understand our world is what causes this unfortunate problem. When we see a stranger, instead of logically accepting them as a complete question mark, we’ll make a quick judgment by observing their attire, gait, demeanor, and activity. Like the science examples, humans have some traceable causes for who they are. But there are so many variables in our lives that affect each other in complex ways that it is impossible to fully understand why any one person is the way that they are.
Scale It Back
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being observant. For example, I’ve found that observing yourself is the best way to destroy bad habits. Having an active mind and observing your surroundings is a great way to learn.
Like many things in life, we need to seek out the middle ground here. Humans like extremes, but they are rarely the best option. Do not label anyone so thoroughly that you don’t leave room for a change of opinion. At the same time, I must advise against walking up to a gang and asking them if they’d like to go ballroom dancing with you.
Everyone Has A Story
We are a fantastic species. We are all unique with our own hopes, dreams, fears, and insecurities. More importantly, we all have a story. If you want your life to be a whole lot more fascinating, start asking strangers what their story is. Even the most hardened hearts will often soften when someone takes an interest in their story instead of their criminal record or why they wear socks with sandals.
We are drawn to stories. Movies, books, video games, plays…they are based on story. If you’re a Christian like I am, you believe humans are a key part of an amazing story of creation and redemption. If you’re a naturalist, you believe we’re the most capable species in part of the incredible story of life ex nihilo.
Any way you slice it, humans are part of a larger and smaller (personal) story. At this basic level, we’re all in the same boat. I think Bob Marley was on to something.
I might write about my story on here (or as a book) someday, but right now I would love to hear your thoughts on this post. And if you’re willing, I would love to hear your story right now (as brief or lengthy as you wish to share). Feel free to leave it as a comment or use the contact form to email it to me if you’d rather not share it with everyone else.
This song had me in tears just now. It is by one of my favorite bands – Keane. To me, it speaks of a person wanting nothing more than to be understood. Deep down, that’s all of us.
So be understood…
What’s your story?