Jimmy Fallon had a funny bit on his show a few months ago. In it, a former New York Yankees baseball player – Robinson Cano – was back in the Big Apple playing with his new team. So Jimmy had a large picture of Cano in his new uniform and invited New Yorkers to boo and yell what they wanted to at the picture.
After they were done, while they were talking with an interviewer, Robinson Cano would walk out from behind the picture. The reactions of the former hecklers was priceless.
Here is the video for you to watch.
What I found most interesting about the video was how it illustrates our tendency to dehumanize people. Whether it is an athlete, entertainment personality, homeless person, or a victim of a disaster far away, our tendency is to categorize people and respond to the role or category rather than their humanity.
For the people in the video, that became hard to do when the actual person, complete with feelings and responses, was standing in front of them.
This attitude toward people is epidemic on Twitter, where anonymity and 140 character create a false sense of bravado in people and the words they use. Ever check out the replies to a female celebrity picture? It is quite an education to see what people can spout off, everything from what they want to do to them in bed, harsh denouncements of what the person originally said, to judgments about appearance and their last performance.
Quite the opposite of what you’d expect, social media dehumanizes people to each other.
Rather than a person, you are a category or statistic.
Rather than human, you are an object I can tear down for my benefit.
Rather than a relationship, you are something to which I can compare my self. Boosting my identity if I feel superior, and becoming the object of blame and attack if I do not.
Followers of Christ do this as well. How often do we dehumanize and categorize people by their sin and shortcomings? Forgetting from where we came, we pull out a standard response, judgment or prescriptions for proper behavior. (BTW, the comment thread on someone’s tweet is not a place for effective evangelism.)
Jesus calls his followers to compassion, the opposite of dehumanization. We are all alike in our humanity.
Compassion is an expression of the dignity all people have as image bearers of the Creator.
Compassion is the acceptance that we are all alike in the brokenness of that image.
Compassion is an understanding that another person does not exist to sustain your identity.
Compassion is the remembrance that we in Christ were once outside of Christ too.
How do you tend to categorize people? How does that affect your response to them?
I work with followers of Christ to energize discipleship, improve relationships, decrease anxiety and facilitate leadership development. I am a certified coach specializing in pastoral leadership, relationships, discipleship, life transitions, and Christian identity. Also, I am the author of the forthcoming book Discovering Your Root: Developing Your Identity in Christ.
Services I offer are one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking at organizations/churches, workshops on marriage/discipleship/leadership, and church retreats. For more info, click here to contact me.