A typical stereotype connected to pastor’s kids is that we’re spoiled brats. I’m not entirely sure where this stereotype comes from, because I never felt like I was spoiled. Not when I can still remember what the buckle of a belt accidentally hitting my butt feels like. Not when I was raised on the principle of “spare the rod, spoil the child”.
But I’ve met people who are convinced that I’m spoiled, and nothing I say can sway them from this mindset that all pastor’s kids are spoiled. I’ve had one person tell me that she believes I’m spoiled, because their pastor’s daughter was spoiled. I tried to tell her my background – that my parents didn’t have any support from their home church and that I grew up not bothering to ask for things I wanted, because I knew my parents couldn’t afford it. I told her that looking back, I realize that we were actually poor, but I never felt that way, because my needs were provided for, and my parents never actually acted like I thought a poor person would.
She took that final statement and decided that I was a spoiled brat, because it meant I got everything I wanted, because hey… if I didn’t, I would’ve known we were poor.
She doesn’t take into consideration all the times I had to go to school with holes in my shoes or the years that I had to make do with two pairs of tattered jeans. I didn’t get everything I wanted. It’s just that I didn’t know that we were poor, because my parents taught me how to make do with what he had.
My parents knew how to sacrificially treat me and allow me to experience the pleasures of life even if we were on budget.
That doesn’t make me spoiled. That just means my parents taught me to be content with what I had, without complaining.
My point here is that this is what’s wrong with stereotypes. Once you pigeonhole a person or a people group into a certain stereotype, it becomes harder for you to listen to their story, to really listen. To hear what they have to say in terms of who they are and what made them the way they are. Every story they tell you about themselves is interpreted in your mind as something that reinforces your preferred stereotype.
I’m talking about this, because I’ve been reflecting a lot on stereotypes and how I’m prone to assign stereotypes on certain groups of people based on my own experiences. I want to stop doing this, because each individual is a different story. Each individual is unique and was molded in that way for a reason that transcends stereotypes.
If there’s anything I want to be able to do through my writing, it is to be able to give voice to those stories of people who have felt unheard. I’m just one story, but there are so many other stories out there, so much tragedy and triumph, heartache and celebration, so much that is dying to be said by those who don’t know how to say it.
If you’ve ever been unfairly stereotyped, you know what I’m talking about. You know what it feels like to have to defend yourself against a stereotype. You’ve been where I am, maybe in a different way, but I think we can both agree… We wish someone would listen and look beyond the stereotype.
Care to share? What are your experiences about stereotypes and how do you get past it?