Stereotyping ~ More Thoughts to Ponder

We have all stereotyped at one time of the other. Even if we go back to “Boys have cooties” and “Girls have cooties”.

People try to define their place in society. The “mundane majority” has taught us to focus primarily on differences to define ourselves and to accept that the differences are “less” or inferior to what we possess.

On the spiritual path, we are even more intensively attempting to define ourselves and by the very nature of this process, sometimes, we engage in even more stereotyping to determine what we “are not”. It is much easier to focus on what we “are not” rather than what we “are”. But we limit ourselves when we do not see that it is a “tool” and we make “judgments”, especially illogical judgments by random appearances. Then the tool becomes prejudice and intolerance and leads us in the opposite direction of productive growth into superiority issues and “us versus them group” mentality.

A good clue is the word “All” and “Always”. Be sure that those two really apply when you are speaking and defining yourself.

Ignorance and lack of experience is often the basis for prejudicial stereotyping. For example, if I popped into an isolated tribe of pygmies. They might think that all redheads are tall and have blue eyes. They might think that everyone with red hair has attributes that we might know are unique to me as an individual.

“We” would know otherwise, because we have more education about and have been exposed to more of a variety of redheads than the pygmies have. When a second redhead pops in and has different traits, then the pygmies begin to realize that some redheads are this way and some redheads are another way. The preliminary stereotype (while valid to them at the time) is no longer valid through education and experience.

The biggest downfall of stereotyping is to assume and/or accept that they are absolute truths rather than limited opinions and to utilize them as such rather than “guides” for expanding our spiritual path.

Sometimes, stereotyping is a survival tool:

I tell my children not to go near stray dogs because they are dangerous.

Does this mean that all stray dogs are dangerous? No. But, the danger of a stray dog having rabies and biting them is a serious possibility. It is such a possibility that I do not want to endanger the health of my children because it might not have rabies. The risks outweigh the possibility of the dog not being rabid.

We can all understand this stereotype and its necessity. The important part of the stereotype is that I know that it does not apply to ALL dogs. Just because a small proportion of dogs may be stray and a proportion of strays might be rabid and that a proportion of those might cause harm to my children, does not automatically equate that every dog will harm my children.

Stereotypes should be flexible and a tool to help us make important judgments for situations. Not dictate a belief system or a universal truth. If we begin to believe that a stereotype is a universal truth, then we should logically first suspect that we either do not have enough education or exposure to make that determination and we should investigate whether or not it is, indeed, a stereotype that we are assuming to be a universal truth.

Thought to Ponder – What is the difference between a stereotype and an archetype and how can the lines between the two cross?

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