So I went to the mall yesterday.
"Wow, Cole, that’s fascinating. I’m so glad you made a blog post about it."
Hey, it was a big day.
Anyway, I went to the mall with a friend of mine where she quickly learned that I very easily get sucked in to any kiosk around. I’ve had my hands cleaned with sea salt one too many times…
Yesterday I got pulled into the World Vision desk. The worker gave me her spiel and I politely listened, but I felt compelled to ask her something when she finished. I was curious about what it was like to constantly get ignored by almost every single person that walked by. To just have people purposely avert their eye contact to literally anything else around. Did she take it personally? How does a person deal with that? She gave an encouraging answer about how she knows that she’s doing a good work so she can put up with it. But after that encounter, I couldn’t stop thinking about how we treat each other often times as human beings.
My friend and colleague, Ashley-Elizabeth, recently posted on a similar topic, and I think it’s an important issue to consider.
The word that came to mind for me was “dehumanization”. I think that’s a pretty heavy word because it insinuates taking away from another person exactly what makes them that person: being human. How easy is it for us to dehumanize each other just so we can feel better about ourselves and justify our actions? How often do we treat those people at the kiosks in the mall as less than human by simply pretending that they barely exist and don’t deserve even a few minutes of our time?
But it doesn’t stop with the World Vision girl, or the sea-salt hand cream guy, but continues into literally almost every part of our lives.
I think it’s most prominent today online. It’s easy to treat a person like less than a human when you’re merely interacting with a profile picture or online account. You don’t have the ability to see the feelings that you might be creating in that person on the other end of the technology. So, our actions seem to have no real consequences in the spirit of the other person. Unfortunately, they do.
I see this all the time just in everyday interactions as well. We might see a person and establish an immediate impression of them that is most likely unfair. But we don’t care to actually take the time to realize that that person is a human being, and treat them as such. We’re willing to form opinions of people and actions without really knowing it so that we can just put them in a box that we can comfortably judge from afar. As soon as we treat that person as a person though, we have to reconsider that box. We have to realize that they are worth more than the initial judgements that we cast.
For example, when we watch people on TV, whether they’re celebrities or reality show stars, we criticize every action despite how awful the criticism might be just because we don’t know that person. It’s super easy for me to watch a show like Big Brother and condemn every action done by every one of the participants, “just because I don’t like him/her.” I don’t know Brad Pitt either so it’s simple for me to treat him more as an idea, or a punching bag of insults, rather than an actual person who bears the image of God, and judge any action he might perform that I don’t approve of (even though we all know Brad Pitt is an angel).
That grumpy, unhelpful cashier at the grocery store? “What a jerk. Doesn’t he know that I’m giving him my business?” That may be so, but do we know what happened to him that day? Maybe he just got kicked out of his apartment. Maybe his girlfriend just broke up with him. Maybe he just recently found out that he lost someone close to him. Maybe he was diagnosed with cancer that morning. We can’t know any of that, so I think we should be cautious about how we may scrutinize a person. We don’t know his life, but what we DO know is that he is created in the image of God, just like you and me. Because that’s where this issue stems from: as soon as we treat someone as anything less than the image-bearing child of God that they are, their life loses worth in our eyes.
Now, you don’t have to agree with me and say that he or she is a person made by God with God-given purpose. But you do have to consider what it means to be a human being. It’s when we treat people as worthless, randomly-gathered protoplasm that we lose the one thing that makes us different from the chimpanzee at the zoo. We’re more than that, and I believe that is one thing you can’t disagree with.
We can’t know everything that everyone else is going through in their lives. But we can know that we all have our own struggles that we deal with on a daily basis. So the next time you have an unpleasant interaction with a fellow human being on your adventures, or merely cast an immediate judgment on a person, remember what they are: a person. Just like you. Just like me. They woke up this morning with dreams and desires, as well as troubles and trials. I only ask that we strive to re-humanize our brothers and sisters on this planet by encouraging the dreams and treating them like the human being they are.
Because we all get our fair share of being treated like the sea-salt hand cream guy at the mall.
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