Melanie's Blog

The Dangers of Wrongful Stereotyping

May 24, 2020

A stereotype is a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment.[1] It’s a classification incorrectly formed, often based on race, nationality, gender, economic status, social class or other form of labeling system.


Stereotyping is different from generalization. Generalization is helpful in understanding the world around us by grasping our similarities, recognizing need and finding solutions. Stereotyping is a word used to describe using generalizing in a way that is unfair and hurtful. For the odd one out, the one who doesn’t fit an oversimplified, prejudiced opinion, negative issues can result.


The following are some of the dangers of wrongful stereotypes.


Repercussions of Stereotyping


1.    Stereotyping can kill potential.


When someone is categorized, that person could sense a pressure to conform to a box they were not made to fit. Some people will reject the stereotype and break out of it. Others struggle with fear of rejection, shame of who they really are and guilt for not complying with expectations. As a result, some neglect who they are and the gifts they have to offer the world. Others may try to change themselves, never reaching their God-given potential. 


2.    Stereotyping can stifle creativity.


In order to be accepted, it isn’t uncommon for someone to comply with the status quo or to color within the lines, so to speak. However, it’s the people who think out-of-the-box who give this world a difference perspective, a new invention, a breakthrough in technology, new growth, new development. Creativity challenges us and help us to become better, but we often need to break out of a mold in order to see the world differently.


3.    Stereotyping can lead to self-doubt.


If people know any better and have experienced being stereotyped, they could doubt who they are, the gifts they have or the skill they can do. 


4.    Stereotyping can instigate control issues.


There is more than one motivation, but some stereotyping, whether consciously or unconsciously, could be motivated by a desire or need to control another person. That control could lead to dysfunctional relationships, friction and dissatisfaction.


5.    Stereotyping can cause confusion.


If someone is put into a category that doesn’t fit them perfectly, then he or she could become confused as to why he or she doesn’t fit into a mold that doesn’t fit. Some may question if something is wrong with them. Some may blame God, thinking He made a mistake with them. What’s my identity? What’s my purpose? Who am I? Why do I think, act and feel differently? It could be that the person is confused because he or she doesn’t fit the box someone is forcing them into. It’s like trying to pound a square peg into a round hole.


How people stereotype

1.    Even unknowingly, some people often assume something about someone based on their age, race, gender, experience or environment. 

2.    We give names to people, labeling them. 

3.    Sometimes we make jokes about a group of people. Sometimes it is innocent and funny, but on other occasions it is intentional and hurtful.


Why people stereotype

Control. In order for me to control my world, I feel the need to control you. I want to know what to demand, what to expect.

Identity. In order for me to know my identity, I also feel the need to know yours.

Purpose. In order for me to know my purpose, I feel I have to understand yours. 


Why we believe and receive stereotypes

1.    We believe adults. Young people don’t know any better. If an adult teaches it, they believe it. If they are teaching truth, it helps a young person be whole and free. If it is not a truth, stereotyping can be damaging.

2.    We believe family and educators.

3.    We believe our faith teachers.

4.    We are shaped by our culture, what surrounds us.


Why the church has stereotyped

Same reasons, but we attach misinterpreted Scriptures and God to it, making it much more powerful in misshaping and misusing people. It’s more than control; it’s religious control.


What we can do to stop stereotyping ourselves and others


1.    Learn what the Bible actually says and what it doesn’t say. Consider what you think the Bible says because that is what you were taught or a culture in which you were raised or live, not because it was a truth revealed by the Holy Spirit. Ask God to reveal the truth to you.

2.    Notice that we do it and examine why we do it. Be honest with yourself. Take some time to search your heart and soul.

3.    When referring to a group or characteristic, say, “most but not all”

4.    Embrace, celebrate and stimulate diversity.

5.    Change culture. Love people by accepting them for the person God made them to be.


What to do if someone in your life is boxing you in

1.    Desire to please God more than people.

2.    Find your identity in God.

3.    Decide who speaks into your life.


Keep looking to God for your identity, value, love, purpose and transformation. Your Father has you, and He will help you be, have and do all He has intended for you.