Boxes are so tidy. You can see all sides. They are one-dimensional and really there isn’t much more to say about them. It is what it is.
The same is true when we do that with people, this putting people in boxes.
We tidy them up in our minds and slap a label on them. We all do it. It helps us organize our thoughts. People do it to me all the time and it makes me crazy!
Here are some examples of the boxes I get put in:
You are a Christian so you must vote for…. fill in the blank.
You live in that community so you must be rich.
You are peppy so you must always be happy.
You struggled with an eating disorder so you must still struggle with food.
You say Jesus so you must not be any fun.
None of these are true.
Recently I attended my 25-year high school reunion and felt the boxes. A great deal of this came from the fact that old classmates now see each other on Facebook. (Here is more about the Lie of Facebook.)
We see the highlight reel.
I did it too. We don’t really know the behind the scenes, so we create stories in our heads about each other. It almost felt like we didn’t even need to talk to each other, because everyone had crafted their own stories based off of social media. And then many of us kept saying, “Oh you look the same!”
25 years…none of us are the same! Goodness I hope not!
I found this to be a barrier to the normal process of conversation. It was as if we had to remove the walls of what people perceive us to be to show who we really are. I didn’t want to think I knew what was going on with someone based on their Facebook feed, but in my head it helped organize these ideas of each other.
And then I reminded myself, only through spending time with each other, with talking and looking each other in the eye do we find out what is really going on. How someone is changing and growing and living. You can’t quite do that by scrolling a news feed. What a joy it was to spend time really hearing what was going on with people and learning about their lives now!
Hey look, we all do it. I do and you do too.
But, what happens when we build these boxes and draw people in these lines is, we make them static.
We make them un-bendable and unchangeable.
I don’t know about y you, but every day I live, I am trying to not be static. I want to grow and change and be challenged. I want to fall on my face and make mistakes and try all over again. I want to try new things and meet new people.
Recently someone said to me, “Oh I didn’t want to say anything because I know you don’t like conflict.” Or another person said, “I didn’t think you liked to hug.”
Yes. Sometimes conflict is hard, and sometimes I don’t like to hug people or touch people I don’t know very well.
AND…sometimes I like to give big huge bear hugs. Sometimes I address conflict head on with no fear. Sometimes I cuss like a sailor (I am not proud of this, but hey…sometimes it happens). Sometimes I like big parties and other times I like to go on silent retreats.
I am not a static person and nor are you.
Every day I am changing and growing. Sometimes I am nice and sometimes I am mean. I am human and I am not a fixed thing. I don’t like it when people do this to me and so I am working hard to not do it to others.
Won’t you try too? When you stop labeling and categorizing people (including yourself), you can then be curious. Curious is really fun.
If you are curious about someone you will see they are growing and changing too. They are being shaped by life and molded by experience. Be curious about each other. Stop seeing people as static news feeds and be inquiring about them.
If we are all changing every day by rubbing up against life and experience, then don’t we all have a lot to learn from each other?
Crush the box and adopt curiosity and exploration about your friends, co-workers, and family.
I bet you will be surprised by what you learn when you dig a little deeper than the four walls of the box.