The Danger of Generalizing

The church is full of hypocrites.

White people are racists.

Black people hate white people.

Men are all afraid of commitment.

Poor people are lazy.

Rich people are greedy.

Most people find church boring.

Police officers are corrupt.

Pretty people are stuck up.

People are overweight because they overeat.

The customer is always right.

Protestors are just rioters and looters.

These are just a few examples of generalizations. Taking something that is specific, that may be true of one person or even a few people and concluding it is true of everyone of that race, profession, gender, category, church, or organization.

Generalizations about people are often rooted in unfair and inaccurate stereotypes that reflect our personal prejudice toward a race, ethnic group, or nation.

Generalizations about churches may be traced to a bad experience, or an unfortunate interaction with one member, or even hearsay and gossip that leads us to an unjust and false conclusion.

Generalizations about businesses, educational institutions, and other organizations are too often made with limited knowledge, inaccurate data, or an unfortunate perception of a person we believe is representative of that group.

Generalizations may be the result of an ax to grind, a hidden agenda, or a desire to make a specific narrative fit our ideology.

Generalizations could be an overt, dishonest attempt to undermine a cause, taint a reputation, or justify our own personal shortcomings.

Generalizations may simply be innocent, though incorrect and ignorant characterizations of what we’ve learned and repeated without serious thought.

Of course, there is a danger to a post like this in generalizing about all generalizations. As Mark Twain once quipped, “All generalizations are false. Including this one.”

There are, however, some Bible percepts and principles that may help us avoid unfair generalizations.

“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (Jn 7:24)

“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12).

“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality” (Jas. 2:12).

“Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (1 Pet. 2:17).

“These things also belong to the wise: It is not good to show partiality in judgment” (Prov 24:23).

“Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, But in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Ax. 10:34-35).

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” (Gal. 5:14-15).

To paint any group with a broad brush based on one’s limited experiences, colored by one’s cultural, political, or social biases, and especially motived by one’s personal agenda, will almost always fall short of reality and Truth.

Finally, “Any general statement is like a check drawn on a bank,” observed American poet Ezra Pound. “Its value depends on what is there to meet it.”

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


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2 responses to “The Danger of Generalizing

  1. Philip North

    Let us all remember not to act on generalizations the next time we travel to the polls to vote. I never could see how an individual claiming to be a N. T. Christian could possibly stay devoted to any one political party year after year, no matter for what that party stood. I personally never could. I vote for the candidate, not the party. Let us vote the way we truly feel our Saviour would vote. After all, it is His name we profess to wear. Great article, Brother Ken!


  2. Pingback: Weekly Recap: June 21-26 | ThePreachersWord

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