This is a copy of a post I wrote for "Blogger of Jared."
There are many roles available for people to pick and choose to define themselves and others. Sometimes there is more than one role we are actively playing at a time. There are even circumstances when one role is in direct contradiction to others. It can often become confusing.
Despite all of the various ways to define a person, there is always the chance we could label with too broad a brush. The worst scenario is stereotyping; where expectations are imagined without considering all other possibilities. This can stifle any chance of getting to know a person beyond what has already been decided. Jesus was a master at looking at a person who already had a particular "reputation" and seeing if there was something more:
7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.
17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.
26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.
27 And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?
28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.
Like all Jews of the time, Jesus saw the Samaritans as apostates who tried to usurp the true religion. He could have easily, much like he did the Gentiles, ignored her. It is true that he still reprimanded her for what she worshipped. Yet, he looked deeper into her soul and found a person he could talk with. Not only that, but she saw him as more than a Jew. He was a person she could respect. He may not have made her a Jew, but she was no longer simply a (1)Samaritan (2)divorced (3)woman sitting at a watering hole. In some ways she became more than that.
It is not only other people who define our roles. Many times we personally give names to what we are. Some of the more familiar ones include Mother, Father, Lawyer, Doctor, Mechanic, Priest, Elder, Bishop, Baptist, Muslim, Mormon, Spanish, Black, White, Republican, Democrat, American, European, Chinese, and the list goes on. Where do the names end and the person begin? Spending too much time acting as one thing can endanger other things that might be equally as important. Recently Elder M. Russell Ballard said:
Occasionally we find some who become so energetic in their Church service that their lives become unbalanced. They start believing that the programs they administer are more important than the people they serve. They complicate their service with needless frills and embellishments that occupy too much time, cost too much money, and sap too much energy. They refuse to delegate or to allow others to grow in their respective responsibilities.
As a result of their focusing too much time and energy on their Church service, eternal family relationships can deteriorate. Employment performance can suffer. This is not healthy, spiritually or otherwise. While there may be times when our Church callings require more intense effort and unusual focus, we need to strive to keep things in proper balance. We should never allow our service to replace the attention needed by other important priorities in our lives. Remember King Benjamin’s counsel: “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength” (Mosiah 4:27). - M. Russell Ballard, “O Be Wise,” Ensign, Nov. 2006, 17.
Probably the worst situation we can find ourselves in is when we don't know where we fit in the world around us. Those who feel that way can be lost and often depressed. Many who don't have a good grasp of their life often fill it with destructive choices. These are the kind of people who need one particular role for others to act the part; a friend. That is something everyone wants and can be.