It is said that it takes a split second to form an opinion about a person. The formation of those opinions is aided by stereotypes that we've learned or developed over the years.
Stereotypes Can Help
When applied judiciously, stereotypes can serve us well, saving time and, perhaps in some situations, helping us to survive. A child learns, either through experience or being taught, that a growling dog should be avoided. Not all growling dogs will bite, but it's better to keep one's distance.
Stereotypes Can Hurt
Sometimes, the stereotypes are applied too broadly. If you are taught, or decide after an experience or two, that all dogs will bite, you will have a false impression of that friendly, tail-wagging pup that just wants to play fetch.
That is often the problem with stereotypes applied to people. As soon as we start lumping people together because of some visible trait, we have false impressions of a good number of them.
How Can We Be More Like Jesus?
If we had the ability to see what's in a person's heart, it would be easy to make judgments about them. But we can't, so we have to rely on other things. What can we do to be more like Jesus?
- Use stereotypes judiciously. Understand that they are useful in probably only the most dire situations. Everyone is a unique individual who deserves to be judged on their own merits.
- Look for the best in everyone. We are all loved by God because He sees the best in us. Our best may be hidden by prison garb, unkempt hair and clothes, or a snarly face, but He is able to look past those superficial things to see the treasures that we are.
- Forgive failings. None of us is perfect. All of us make mistakes, commit sins, and have weaknesses. Jesus sees all of those failings and is still able to love us. We can do the same.