This is a game that you can play in the privacy of your own mind. Think of our current president. What is the first word that comes to mind? Too easy? OK, here’s another. Think of your best friend. What comes to mind?
We all stigmatize each other whether we want to admit it or not. Even if it is just one word descriptions like “cheesy” or “funny” or “hairy.” How do we break away from that or is it just human nature?
I noticed this morning as I was reading Scripture that a lot of Old Testament folks were stigmatized or typecast with a one word description following and it stuck. For instance, Rahab is listed as “Rahab, the harlot.” Wow…even though she helped the 2 spies escape in Canaan and was in the lineage of Christ, her former lifestyle remained a part of who she was. All of the actions that we do are woven together like a huge tapestry that makes up who we are.
Several others that are familiar are “Mordecai, the Jew;” “Ruth, the Moabitess,” and “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Back then, they didn’t have last names and middle names like we do today to distinguish us from others so they tagged them according to their birthplace, their profession or who their parents were.
Some of our typecasting helps us to mentally picture someone if we know several women named Valerie. Valerie—the hairdresser or Valerie—the tall blonde.
What about ourselves? How do others picture us? Do we leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth? Our first impressions can be lasting ones, especially if that is the only time someone sees us. Are we nice and courteous?
I’m going to share something with you that I am so totally ashamed of but I’ve asked forgiveness from the Lord and from the offended parties and we are fine but I really wish it hadn’t happened. It was a painful lesson.
I was working with my sister and she took on a partner who was very blunt, up-front and could be abrasive. One day, she told me that I didn’t need to be so nice and I needed to stand up for myself. Well, instead of running it through God’s Word first and seeing if her advice was Biblical, I took it and used it one day…much to my dismay.
Our water bill was due and we didn’t have the money to pay it. They had shut it off– on a Friday of all days. So, I thought I would “stand up for myself” and a little voice whispered, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” I opened a door inside myself that I don’t ever want to see again. When I called the water company, the girl I talked to got the full force of my anger plus road rage and I said some stuff that I wouldn’t dare repeat. She hung up on me. I would have, too.
As the day progressed, I tried to validate my stance but the more I tried, the worse I felt and the worse the situation got. I was so guilt-ridden that I couldn’t stand it. I prayed and asked God to forgive my mouth and my behavior and then I had to call and apologize to the lady at the water company (and all of the other people I involved in this tragedy). She wasn’t going to take my call until I told the other girl that I was calling to apologize. She accepted my apology and I told her that it was not like me to do something like that. She told me that she figured I had a bad day. Nope, just took some bad advice. But you know what? I’ve not talked to her again and I don’t remember her name but I guarantee you she will remember me and not in a good way, even though I apologized. I ruined my testimony with her.
What lasting impression are you leaving on people that you meet? Are you known as “Johnny…the quitter” or “Suzie…the constant talker” or “Joan…the prayer warrior?” What is your testimony?
One great thing about God is that no matter how badly we screw up, He can fix it. He will use it for good. It’s encouraging to me to know that He loves me in spite of myself. He knows me intimately and yet still loves me. So much of my life can be related to Old Testament heroes and I use them often to help get through tough times. David messed up, yet God used him in a mighty way.
It’s just so much easier when the Lord can use us willingly. I’m not saying it’s hard for Him. Nothing is too hard for Him and nothing shocks Him. It’s easier on us when we willingly obey. All of His precepts are there for a purpose. His laws are there to help us and keep us safe because He loves us so much.
I hope this has helped you to think about your behavior and testimony. Be kind to others—even a simple smile to a stranger may brighten their day.
Thank you, Lord, for your unfailing love!