Thursday, January 7, 2010

Single Story = Stereotype

Stereotypes are incomplete, oversimplified opinions based on prior assumptions.  Stereotypes are labels given to a situation, group of people or individual.  Having lived in three different countries, I must admit that I have been both a culprit and victim of this dangerous mistake.  Fortunately, I had the opportunity to find out for myself some truth behind the lies that I've convinced myself to believe. 

With little information at my disposal, I believed that American missionaries living in the Philippines were those who could not make it financially in the States.  Living in a developing country would elevate their status.  What a noble way to look and feel rich, I thought.  When I met Tim he was a short term missionary.  I can't forget a conversation we had when I asked, for some reason I can't remember, how much money he had.  His response was, "Yes, I have four hundred dollars in the bank."  For this story to make sense, I should say that at the time of this conversation, I was an independent person, working on my PhD dissertation, with a good job and satisfactory income.  His response confirmed my original opinion about missionaries.  Years later and after we got married, I found out the other financial story of people going on a mission when we as a couple applied to go and become full time missionaries to another country.  Tim had to quit his good-paying-job as a computer programmer to go begging churches for support.  Missionaries in fact can be those who are financially self-sufficient people with a goal to serve others and to please God in humility.  There was no better way for me to learn this truth than becoming a missionary "appointee". 

Based on prior assumption, when one disagrees with us we oversimplify the reason by saying that the other person dislikes us.  That is but one possible story.  Could it be that the other person sees something within my blind spot and that to disagree with me is a mere expression of concern?  To come up with an original closer-to-truth opinion, find out about the other story.  Research always reveal the unknown or unimagined.  Without it, we allow ourselves to live in a bubble of half truths or lies. 

Get a cup of coffee before watching this video for a more enjoyable viewing experience.  :)

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