Overcoming Grouping

I am finding it hard to be discerning this political season. The tendency is to group people together and judge individuals for the “sins” of a few, a practice that runs against my beliefs. But it is difficult because it seems to be a societal reality that we group ourselves in some way. When we identify with a group, it is assumed we take on the beliefs of that group even if that is not the case.

I was born and raised Catholic and was a practicing a Catholic for years. Anyone who knew about my affiliation could assume that I believed in its tenets, but the truth is I disagreed with the church on many levels. Eventually, I stepped away from the Church toward communities that fit my spirituality and beliefs more closely.

I am a liberal when it comes to politics, so I tend to identify with the more liberal of our two parties. As with religion, I know labeling myself as such, people will make some basic assumptions about my beliefs.

What is it that makes us do this grouping? Maybe grouping helps us to figure people out without having to have a relationship with them. This is probably a good thing when we are rushed and have to make a decision. By good I mean expedient or practical.

I am just tossing this idea around in my head. Grouping people, making assumption about them based on their group affiliations, feels false and weak to me. I want to be able to strip myself of prejudices based on how a person looks, the banner they carry, the groups with which they associat. I would prefer to see each person as they are, to look into their soul and to honor their complexities. It is not easy when people themselves tend to identify with their own group.

I want to move from “reacting” to “responding”, an idea I read about in The Untrue Story of You, by Bryan Hubbard. Hubbard suggests that if we were really living in the moment, we would be untainted by our pre-judgments and simply respond to whatever or whoever is before us. What that means to me is that when I approach someone, I see them as a clean slate that I allow them to write on. I let them show me or tell me the story of themselves.

This is an ideal, folks. I have a long way to go and I forget to live it time and time again. I think Peace Pilgrim, the hero that inspired this blog, learned how to live it. Reading about the strange encounters she had as she traversed across the country for peace inspires me. She was never blown away by people’s physical appearances, their affiliations, status, or even their immediate emotional state. Sometimes, in my estimation, she put herself in danger. But when she interacted with people, she looked directly into their souls which had the effect of disarming them. Peace had a Quaker background where she learned that there is “that of God” in everyone.

I don’t know what tomorrow may hold, but just for today, I can try to walk in her footsteps, to respond to people rather than react to them, to wash away my pre-judgments based on the groups with which they identify, to see “that of God” in each person.

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