Stigma

A Peter’s Pondering: Stigma!?
I like words….all words….that word stigma is not used vary often any more as far as I can tell but it is a good word to describe a problem. The problem is the assumption, presumption of people often driven by culture to fixate on certain peoplewho have issues that ‘mark’ them in certain ways. They fix their attention on an issue in a person’s life
and judge them unacceptable. Unacceptable. Not accepted into their sphere of life.
This ‘mark’ could be any number of things…outward or internally. But what ever it is, it causes a
prejudice towards them. S T I G M A & prejudice go together…. That word stigma carries with it a
clear sense of something bad, wrong, unacceptable…It is a powerful word.
Most people who know me a little bit know that I had polio at age 4, was totally paralyzed and even in an
‘iron lung’ to help me breathe. God was gracious and full of mercy and my recovery was better than
expected at first. But, I had been marked. Crippled, handicapped, gimpy, lame etc. Even today at 71 yrs
old to type those words in reference to who I am causes some uncomfortable feelings.
I was, am a polio kid survivor. My family was wonderful in accepting me and encouraging me but where
ever I went and who ever I met, you could see on the impact of the crippled boy showing up for what ever
reason. I was and still am stigmatized…marked.
Sometimes, well more often than we think, people have been ‘marked’ by something that causes other
people to think in a certain negative way about them. This prejudiced people toward me. Even those
whose intentions seemed positive. The stigma of being crippled influenced their interactions with me.
Some just ignored me which in many ways is the worst possible action.. The list of interactions is large
but that is not really what I want to address.
What I want to address is how and why I was able to manage and flourish even under the stigma of being
a cripple. Grrr….stills bothers me….
It is simply a matter of identity…..my own identity. I learned very early in life that I was not what others
see in the outward man…I was graced with parents that some how got the notion that they should
encourage my self worth early on. This was God’s grace in my life. The more I focused on a positive
identity, the less influence the prejudice had on me. A scripture that has helped me along the way is:
John 16: 33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many
trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world you can have the same peace I had
and now offer to you. (Italics Peter’s interpretation)
This is just the tip the ice berg of scriptures and truths that say I can have peace and because of that, I
could, just like Jesus, overcome the trials and sorrows of this life.
SO. If you have stuff that stigmatizes you in what ever way. Look to the One who overcame them all
and invites you to focus on Him for that peace that is required to overcome the ‘what evers’ that are
hindering you.
Note: If you focus on your issues others will….if you focus on a positive identity, those negative issues
fall away; once past the that initial encounter. I do not see myself a cripple so………guess what.

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