“What, you may be wondering,” is “lumping?” And then, perhaps, “And if I don’t know what it means, how can I be doing it?”
The dictionary describes “lump,” when used as a verb, as meaning “to put in an indiscriminate mass or group; treat as alike without regard for particulars.”
There has been a lot of lumping lately – lumping of people by religious group, by nationality, by skin color. Think about it. Think about social media. About the way people talk when speaking of others not like them. So many of us tend to lump.
“Americans,” “white people,” “men,” “Muslims,” “Democrats,” “Tories,” “Socialists,” “black people,” “women,” “Christians,” “Republicans,” the list goes on and on and one part of our brains knows, when we use these terms, that they – whichever “they” it may be – do not all think alike, act alike, don’t even look that much alike. Yet we use the terms, over and over again. When we do this we make whatever group we are mentioning into “the other.” We add to the many splits that separate us from others on our rather small planet.
When we lump, we imply that what is true of some becomes true of all. When we write (or say) something about “women,” we are lumping all women together as though all were the same even though, if we pause to think, we know that this is not true. Unfortunately, when we lump we are usually expressing something negative. When we speak positively, it is usually to describe someone’s behavior as though it were exceptional – which it may well be. Sadly, when we describe groups of people, it is most frequently an attempt to portray them in a negative light, often based on some stereotype.
We also strengthen our own tendency to perceive the entire body of those people, in whichever group they may be, as being in alignment with that stereotype.
Is that how you really want to be? Does it fit with your self-concept of yourself as an independent, thinking, and compassionate human being?
A Solution – the Word “Some”
There is one little word, just four letters long, that can begin to change this sad tendency. One word can change our thinking and the way we communicate, so that we begin to perceive the world as a little less “good” and “bad.” One word combats the tendency to lump. Perhaps we should consider using it more often.
That word is so simple. It is “some.” “Some men…,” “Some women….”
It is a word that admits that not all of almost any group are… anything. We do not think alike, believe alike, vote alike, love alike, hate alike… if we have to hate at all, which seems unnecessary.
“Some” admits that when we generalize, there are exceptions to what we are saying.
“Some” admits that there is good among the bad and bad among the good. It admits that people are capable of thinking for themselves, of being independent of whatever we are concluding about that particular group of people.
Wouldn’t you want to know, when people speak negatively of whatever particular group you may belong to, that they allow for the fact that not everyone fits into their judgment? That they are not assuming that you fit their stereotype? That they allow that there are exceptions by preceding their generalization with the word “some”?
As a personal example, I know that I feel hurt when I read a post from a friend of mine who tends to politicize race and to refer only to the wrongs that Caucasians have committed upon African Americans. I know very well how much I wish that, rather than “whites,” those posts referred to “some whites.” They never do.
Don’t we all consider ourselves, and want to be considered by others, as exceptions to some judgments? Should we not allow that there are exceptions to our own judgments?
(Of course, I could rant against judging in any form, but it is sometimes difficult not to draw conclusions – hopefully based on facts – and what one person sees as a conclusion, is often seen by others as a judgment.)
So, for now, let us remember that there are exceptions to every rule and every stereotype, and let us begin to use the word “some” whenever we are generalizing about people or situations.
Let us say “no” to lumping by adding “some” to every generalization.
May your 2016 be the best year yet!
(This blog was originally published as an issue of my free newsletter, “Work in Progress (because we all are!).” I do not usually mix newsletter and blog. However, I think this topic is important enough to want to give it wider distribution, so I am also distributing it as a blog, available to all on my website. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter (WIP), which is distributed approximately twice a month, please look to the right of this page for the sign-up form.)
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