I have a friend who is 180 degrees from me. From my faith. From my temperament. From my interests. From what I read. My opposite in almost every way..
My friend has stereotypes about who Christian people are and what they believe, and those stereotypes are often in-play when we have a conversation. I can tell when he is testing his stereotypes; he drops big ideological bombs to see how I react.
Often accompanied with a chuckle or a smile to camouflage the real intention of the comment. He’s too polite to say, “I think all Christians are fill in the blank. I’ve never let on that I know what he’s doing. It would give away the wonderful opportunity I have to blow up his stereotypes one-by-one.
In a recent conversation he joked about churches’ practice of collecting a contribution at worship service. Like it was a big money-making scheme. I said, “You are stereotyping me, and you are wrong.” A monster opportunity dropped into my lap to have a heart to heart with a friend.
I’m grateful for our conversations and regard them as wonderful. I love the repartee. Even the disagreement. Because we are friends we respect each other. Stereotypes drop as we get to know each other better.
A few years ago, I dropped the self-expectation that I must change the minds of people with whom I don’t agree. It was a gigantic shift in my thinking. I was able to resign from the belief that I had to “convert” or change people. It eliminated the barriers to great friendships.
An even greater shift was in the quality and diversity of my relationships. My world suddenly became larger because I began to really enjoy genuine friendships with people wildly different from myself. And the personal result has been wonderful.
Stereotypes keep me from seeing the lovely person beyond the surface junk that keeps us apart.