Rachel Heath

Intentional Living: learning to be fully present

I’m a Greyscale Kind of Girl

I hate to categorize people. I’m very careful about the things I choose to define myself by and I try to be just as careful when identifying others.

Recently I was having a conversation with my psychologist friend and she used a term which I’ve found myself mentally referencing a lot lately: “black-and-white people”, and conversely, “grey people”. It’s pretty self-explanatory. Black-and-white people tend to view the world in absolutes and (in my mind) also tend to be somewhat closed-minded. Grey people tend to take situations on a case by case basis and to see the grey areas. These are general terms- slippery terms- and I don’t mean to say that one is better than the other. They’re just rough appellations for part of the infinitely complex conditions of human relationship. With that in mind…

I’m a grey person (can you tell? no? the above paragraph took me half an hour). I believe in grey areas. I believe nothing is ever as simple as it seems; in my mind there’s always more than one side to a story. I don’t think opinions and experiences that differ with my own are any less valid. But there are a few black-and-white people in my life that I find endlessly frustrating. These people have a worldview that simply does not allow for the possibility on any opinion besides theirs. There are two ways with them: their way, and the wrong way. They are dogmatic in their convictions to the extent that they alienate others, making sweeping generalities and oversimplifications. There’s no discussion with them, no free exchange of ideas, no civil agreement to disagree.

For example: I’ve known lots of non-Christians and for the most part we’ve been able to understand each other and respect each other. But I’ve known a few black-and-whites who will ask me about my faith, not for the purpose of gaining my perspective, or learning more about what we believe, but for the purpose of railing on me for being wrong or foolish or misguided or whatever they believe about Christianity because they’ve never given themselves the chance to hear one of us out. Maybe they saw a group of Christians (here, I’m using the term loosely) on the news, holding signs that say “god hates gays”, and assumed that we’re all that ignorant. We’re not. Maybe they met a black-and-white Christian (haven’t we all?) and assumed that we’re all that imperious. We’re not.

Anyway. I know I can’t be the only one who has engaged in a “conversation” with a black-and-white type who happens to be very passionate about politics. So in this election season when tensions run high and November is on every one’s mind and I still haven’t decided for whom to cast my vote, I have decided to swear off of discussing the matter with that handful of people. I’m happy to listen to you with an open mind, and you ought to listen to me. If that’s not going to happen, why should I bother with you?


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One thought on “I’m a Greyscale Kind of Girl

  1. This is all very true. I’m very happy to say that I have (so far) not met any of those politically black-and-white people this election year. It sucks that you have the misfortune of knowing so many of them.

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