Last week, I heard the word, again:*
The woman said it with the kind of ease that gave me the impression that she had used it many times before. The word passed through the casually like a crumpled receipt quickly tossed into a trash can.
I was still pondering the words of a man who had referred to certain people as “nobodies.” He did not want to associate with them. If I elaborated on his criteria, you might understand why my comportment restrained an undeniable disgust.
Sometimes, part of my prayer includes language about God helping me when I judge people who judge others.
No one is a nobody. Everyone is a somebody. These statements are not elementary affirmations from a lesson on self- esteem. These words proclaim truths about who we are in our daily lives.
What happens when we use the Bible support the ways cast people to the margins as nobodies? Does God categorize humanity into groups of somebodies and nobodies?
This dichotomous spiritual form of human valuation has been supported in particular theological spaces.
Christianity has used the Bible to categorize Black people as nobodies, justifying their enslavement.
The Church has used the Bible to justify bullying people who are not Christian.
Have you read in the Bible about:
The sheep versus the goats;
The called versus the chosen;
The spiritual versus the carnal;
The believer versus the unbeliever;
The wheat versus the tares?
Although the Biblical idea of a God who is not a respecter of persons might seem appealing, various Christians tend to express our religion through this “somebodies versus the nobodies” framework.
I feel uncomfortable with people being called “nobodies.” Certain people have more influence than others, and it does not make them any more a somebody than one with a different span of influence.
Whenever I hear these terms, I feel challenged to slow down in order to verbalize more intention in my language. What this means is that instead of saying things like “somebody,” I strive to use more words to honor the diverse human spheres of influence.
I can say things like:
- a person with household name recognition
- a person with formal leadership experience
- a person with extensive reach of influence within “abc” context
- a person with growing influence within the “123” industry
- a person
- a human
When we call people “nobodies,” we reduce people to things. We ignore the intrinsic beauty of people and the impact they make.
When we reduce people to “nobodies,” we sustain systems that create and maintain new forms of slavery. We keep in-tact the hierarchical beliefs which assess value according to different social constructs.
In our defining people as socio-cultural nobodies, we tend to ignore the somebodiness of the divinity of being human.
I think a spiritual framework of somebodiness help us to remember and hold sacred the billions of somebodies who make the world go round.
I think one of the ways our joy and peace can increase by intentionally disrupting these popular ways of thinking and living in our lives. I have experienced it more and more. Imagine how your life would seem if you perceived everyone you came across as somebodies? For some of us, it would mean valuing the barista at your local coffee shop like a leader in your field and/or religion.
I know it can be easier said than done. There are certain people, for example, who are extra special to me. And there are people who do not truly know their somebodiness and act out their pain on the world. They are somebody, even when their actions scream “nobody.”
Nevertheless, I have not reached a place in life where I can call someone a “nobody.” If I ever say something like this, please check on my mental well-being** because this is something I know and feel from the depth of my soul:
All of us are somebody’s somebody starting with ourselves.
*Week 46 of Quitting the Bible
**Also, I have instructed certain friends to check on me if I ever decided to seriously take up running.