How do you break stereotypes and make new friends when others make fun of you for reaching beyond the "accepted" circle?
Nowadays, it seems that people are particularly self-conscious. What others think of us often matters more to us than what we think of ourselves or what we know to be true about ourselves. Personally, I'm a firm believer in doing whatever seems right to do, despite the misgivings of others. No one's opinion about you should matter, except your own and God's. Why act on anyone else's incentives, since they can't really satisfy you in the end?
Jesus amazed the observing crowds by making physical contact with multiple so-called "impure" people. He showed that "devils" and "evil spirits" aren't passed from person to person through physical contact, as many believed at the time. Jesus did not go along with the flow of the current thought. But even though he proved that their opinions were false, some people still maintained their distance from these people. I don't think it was just fear of being "possessed by demons" that motivated these people to keep to themselves. I also think they feared what would become of their reputations if they were seen associating with such lowlifes. What kind of people do things like that? In my opinion, they are the lowlifes.
I would like to think that if I were in their position, I'd go make friends with some "unclean" person. I love to be different and embrace others. If you want to talk to someone, just go. Disregard the public's opinion or whatever you may hear involving the matter. Even though it may take a lot of humility and courage to go up to different people, you'll feel better about yourself for having done it. You won't have to deal with the guilt you may feel if you give into others' false assumptions, for which they have no true evidence.
We're not always dealing with the exact same things as the people in the Bible, but there are some similarities. Back then, lepers, prostitutes, sinners in general, and women were looked down upon. The most prominent characteristic I see in each of these diverse people is simply that they're different from what was considered to be an "average" person in those days. But what is normal? Just because people are different doesn't mean that they should be classified as lesser people. It's not fair or right to put permanent labels on others. The label may say nothing about who they truly are, and that has to be taken into consideration.
Really though, when you scrutinize the acts for which some of these people are condemned, they really aren't terribly worse than the actions of those who condemned them.1 Even most of the heroes in the Bible (Jacob, Joseph, Moses) weren't perfect. That's precisely why it's so unfair to judge others and brand them for life, especially if you don't fully identify with them. You never know -- sometimes you may have more in common with those "social outcasts" than you might think. Don't let your friends get in the way if you do feel the sudden urge to reach out to someone like that. If they try to prevent you from doing so, it kind of makes you wonder if you really want to be around them.
When you're presented with the choice of treating others with kindness or condemnation, remember that being true to yourself, not to your friends, or even to your enemies, is the most important thing. Independence from the image others have of you is one of the most admirable qualities. And it's a gift you can give others. If you ever have doubts, just look at Jesus' example. Remember that he stunned on-lookers with his acts of healing by simply touching those in need. He didn't care about what everyone else thought about them. And look what he did for the world!
Delali Anumu, age 14
1Delali's comment brings to thought the story about the woman "taken in adultery." The scribes and Pharisees were ready to stone her according to their law. But Jesus told them:
He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her…. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:7, 9-11)
Jesus' refusal to judge or condemn others, his unconditional love, freed this woman and transformed her life. We, too, have the opportunity to see others as Jesus saw them, to free them, and to free ourselves so that we don't have to walk away but can meet everyone with the love of Christ.