“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde
For most of us, labels are something we’ve grown up with. Even in the most subliminal way, many of us are familiar with some sort of labeling or another. Think about it—when you hear jock, what do you first think of? Probably not a straight A student or a profound kind of guy, right? How about a nerd? Probably not someone who’s super popular or has great social skills. This way of thinking can even expand into a particular aspect of our careers, schools, or race/ethnicity. In fact, in many ways, labeling is the very root of social ills such as racism and prejudice.
Thankfully, in the modern world, many of us have been warned against the problem of stereotyping based on one factor or the other. Many of us even try to make a conscious effort not to stereotype and assign labels that are irrelevant to the factor at hand. Nonetheless, there is one area where labeling still seems to be fairly common—gender.
Even in the 21st century, many people still assign heavy stereotypes to one gender or the other. Girls are often thought of as being particularly “soft” or weak—while guys are expected to be strong and stoic. Girls are often thought of as being talkative and wordy while men are portrayed as quiet and annoyed by irrelevant conversation.
Nonetheless, like with most things, life isn’t always that simple.
I remember one time, a couple of years ago, one of my guy friends got in the habit of saying that he’s not the typical guy. Oftentimes, I found this phase rather curious. I rarely compared this friend to the other guys we knew, but he often found a way of differentiating himself in his own mind—simply because he didn’t fit society’s idea of what a guy should do. Good, positive qualities such as friendliness, outspokenness, and introspectiveness were somehow dismissed as “not very manly”. Too often, we let this become the case—when virtues became vices, simply because they’re found in the wrong gender.
I am not saying that a guy or a girl should never display qualities typical to their gender. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a serious vice for typically “girly movies” and enjoy dressing up when the opportunity presents itself. Nonetheless, we should never look down on girls for being strong willed and independent or guys for being sensitive and compassionate. God created these people in His image, and never meant for everyone to look or act the same.
Some people, unfortunately, have tried to use the Bible to support curtailing someone’s natural personality based on gender, but the Bible never teaches this. Deborah, in Judges 4, was a prophetess, a judge, and a leader of Israel—and a serious example of a strong, independent, godly woman. Meanwhile, David was shown many times to be a sensitive and caring kind of guy—he wrote outstanding poetry, tended to sheep, and knew how to dance! The Bible never instructs women to be weak and needy and men to be overbearing and harsh. This is simply a construct of modern times, true in some cases and false in others.
God created us all with different goals, ambitions and personalities for a reason. He values diversity in humans and never meant for us to be cookie cutters. He created every inch of our hearts, and wants to see us fulfill our God-given purposes through Him.
Let us never be people who try to shrink the creation of a creative God.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14