“On some fundamental level we find it difficult to understand that other people are human beings in the same way that we are.” – John Green

Society has a problem with devaluing other people. Pop cultured is littered with examples of people diminishing other people to their labels. Songs, movies, and books often show case humans as only their race, religion, sexual preference, disability, or gender. Those tend to be more the popularly used groups of division.

The problem with only seeing someone as the label that has been placed on them is we tend to forget their personhood. They become one dimensional. We stop thinking of people as three dimensional beings with independent lives. They have their own experiences, problems, and triumphs.

Its easy to do because we see people in one way. Typically, we have an image of what a person is like and only think of them in those terms. For example, for my readers who have friends with children, I would imagine when you are around your friends you only see them and experience them as your friend. If their children are not around you see them as you always have. However, if you are around them and their children, you will see them differently. They are going to be caring for their child. You see a different side to this person, adding depth to the person you know.

You see five people can know the same person but each of those five people knows that one person differently. To the point that one person can be seen as five different people. No one’s experience with anyone person is the same.

Furthermore, when we use derogatory names for people we are furthering the dehumanization for that person.  When you call a person an insult, racial slur, homophobic term, or other dehumanizing terms you are separating your ability to connect their humanness with that person.

Its as if you are looking at that singular person as a large group of people. Your thoughts and reactions to that one person are shaped by your biases for the collective group. That is very dangerous thinking. That line of thinking may lead to mob mentality. People in large numbers commit their actions because they feel validated, anonymous, and have shared biases. People will commit behavior they normally other wise wouldn’t do in large crowds. In a large crowd people lose their own sense of humanness furthering the disconnect between you and the other person.

There are four steps we can take to ensure that the devaluation of people can be stopped.

  1. Use the person’s name. Never just use pronouns. If you are upset with a person using their name is a subconscious way of reminding yourself you are dealing with another person. Also, not using insults will very much do the same thing.
  2. Never reduce someone to their illness, disability, gender, sexual orientation, race, or religion. People are so much more than those labels. They have opinions, emotions, thoughts, insecurities. People bleed when cut. They do everything you do when hurt.
  3. Understand that the way you see someone is not the way someone else sees them. They way you understand and know them is not the same way others know or understand them. This adds the dimensional aspect to a person.
  4. Respect an individual’s personhood. You are a person that demands to be heard, respected, and has desire to be understood. We should work every day to provide the same to other folks.

Humans are naturally ego syntonic. People are very selfish and immediately see how every situation is going to affect them before they move forward. Frankly, its a survival skills. Without it humans would not be alive as long as they have been. However, we have to deal with the consequences of that innate biological feature.

In the rising tension filled political, racial, religious climate we are experiencing, I believe it’s important to follow the above guidelines. We must not forget that the people we come into contact with are just as complex as we are. We need to recognize and respect their complexity. Let’s work towards a society that understands this.

This In Itself Is Humbling.


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