We can all be guilty of putting people in boxes. Some of it is normal (an 80 year old can’t run a marathon!) and sometimes it is judgmental (she spends so much time on that silly hobby! She must not have anything better to do). Either way, it is a good idea to deconstruct the boxes we have put people in so that we can see all that they are and expose our judgments so they can be thrown away.
I have looked at the braces on someone’s teeth or wrinkles on their face and determined that they are not capable of certain things. I have also judged people's behavior (that which is irritating to me) as wrong or ineffective.
Think about someone who annoys you. Come on, I know there is someone. Have you put them in a box because it is uncomfortable to accept them as they are? Are you judging their gifts as not as good as yours?
I am realizing when I put others in a box, it is my way of justifying my own weaknesses. Let me give you an example. I know a lovely lady who is the quintessential happy woman. She is like Martha Stewart without the felony. She always wears a smile, is fit and healthy, she supports her husband in all he does (that's where the Martha Stewart analogy breaks down), wears nice clothes, has loving children and grandchildren, and is constantly positive. She is gracious, hospitable, generous, supportive, creative, a good cook, loving mother/grandmother, satisfied with her life, patient, humble, and God-loving. She is not a fake. I’ve seen it over the years and she has not waivered no matter what happens.
I put her in these boxes:
She has too much time on her hands so she spends it preparing food.
I am justifying my lack of skill when it comes to cooking. She has always cared for her family by preparing wonderful meals. What a gift she has given them! I also secretly wonder how she goes about her day without deadlines and motivation from others. If I weren’t working, I may sleep until 11:00. I need accountability to keep me going, but she does it on her own.
She is spineless. She does nothing but support his goals.
I’m afraid to admit that there is a lot of strength in what she does. She does not have to have a title or position to feel worthwhile.
She is only satisfied only because she has enough money.
I am secretly jealous that I’m not as comfortable as she is. I have also pursued work fiercely so that I will have the money that I say I don’t really want. I also know that she was satisfied long before she was financially comfortable.
She has no opinions of her own.
She is gracious and that is a strength. She does not need to have others agree with her opinions to feel valued. She feels value in who she is regardless of what others say. She is also able to smile and nod even though she does not agree. This does not mean she doesn’t have opinions, it simply means she is disciplined enough to only share hers when asked.
Open the Box
So, to soothe my own fragile ego, I had made these judgments and put her in a box. There she is, in that box over there. It’s a gorgeous box but I’ll put her over there so I don’t have to face my own junk.
By taking my friend out of the box, I am now comfortable and appreciative of her. Un-wrapping the box has allowed me to appreciate her gifts. It also allowed me to see the silly reasons I had put her in there. The box only served to keep my insecurities at bay and keep this beautiful woman hidden. Opening the box has helped me and our relationship.
Have you built boxes around people?
Think of a person you are uncomfortable with. Carefully un-wrap their box and see what it reveals about you. Write out the things you don’t like about them and then see if you can turn that thing on its head and see it as a strength.