What Little Box Are You Living In?
Have you ever noticed that we have a tendency to put people in little boxes, as if that is all there is to them? These are the labels that we quickly spout off when someone asks us something like, “What is Susan like?” More a label than a description, these boxes are a one dimensional view of a person, as if that were our nature. It reminds me of a old song by Malvina Reynolds..
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a Pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
The lyrics expressed an outside look in at upper class homes and lives in San Francisco in the early 1960’s. The people all went to the same schools, into the same professions, drank the same drinks and built the same home-except for the color, of course.
I don’t know about you, but I hate to be put in a box and told “that’s all” I am or all I can do and yet it is tempting to do that very thing to other people. She is….a scatter brain, he is….type-A, they are….not interested in that kind of thing. When we rush to put people in a box, we forget that no person is all one thing or another, all perfect or all imperfect. Everyone has good days, bad days, kinds moments, harsh moments and we certainly all learn over time. We are all loving and angry and cowardly and grateful and nervous and excited and…you get the point. And--we are all perfectly flawed.
The big problem with little boxes is that we use them to separate ourselves from other people. We use them to keep ourselves stuck in one spot. In a world where we are surrounded by people all day and yet lonely, little boxes are the reason the most candid conversation we often have is with a near stranger on Facebook. “My co-worker wouldn’t understand my family.” Or “My family doesn’t understand my job.” Some little boxes are very old and these can be the most dangerous boxes of all. These are the boxes of guilt and of holding a grudge. These boxes bring past pain with you to the present. These boxes prevent parents and children from speaking for decades.
Old boxes can be passed from generation to generation and can have a 10 year old child feeling defeated because he knows he is from the “wrong side of town.” Old boxes of pain and rejection and defensiveness are what keep people (not only the people inside the box) overweight, stressed, addicted and lonely and they trap the “box-makers” in those patterns, too. Old boxes deteriorate our health and lead to disease. Sometimes, we find ourselves in an old box and we are the only one who remembers the box is there. Yet we stay inside.
The only way to dissolve a box is forgiveness. Forgiveness of yourself and forgiveness of those you think hurt you the most. The larger and more distant the box, the sweeter and more immediate the joy of forgiveness. Why not start today? Start big or start small. Need some ideas?