When writing or speaking, generalities are commonly used to help communicate a thought to the reader or listener.
GENERALITIES ARE BIBLICAL
Since this is a Bible blog, my first concern is always going to have to do with the biblical understanding of a subject. If God and His inspired writers used generalities, then it should go without saying that God deems generalities essential and expedient. There are many usages of generalities used in the Scriptures, but I will just allude to a few of them.
For example, Paul speaks of “gullible women” and accuses young widows of being “busy bodies” (2 Tim. 3:6; 1 Tim. 5:13). Obviously, Paul didn’t mean that all women were gullible or that all young widows were busy bodies. When reading Paul’s epistle to Titus, we find Paul utilizes just one source and repeats it by giving a generality about the whole Cretan nationality. Paul said:
“Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” Titus 1:12
Jesus even used a generality when referencing a whole profession (tax collector).
“And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (Mt. 18:17).
Many other examples could be used, such as the continual negative usage of the words Scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel accounts. However, the aforementioned is sufficient to prove that generalities are biblical. Interestingly enough, generalities can be positive or negative. Typically, those opposing the use of generalities only oppose their use if in a negative form.
GENERALITIES ARE ESSENTIAL FOR COMMUNICATION
While we should attempt to give as much context and as many qualifiers as possible when writing and speaking, we have to realize that the reader has a responsibility as to how they are reading. As a reader or listener, we have to train ourselves to listen and read within context. Jesus said:
“Take heed how you hear” (Lk. 8:18).
Unfortunately, many will attack the way someone worded or said something in attempts to distract from the true issue at hand. Instead of dealing with the “meat” of the subject, they are complaining about the wrapper.
One of my professors used to always say that God gave us the Bible and common sense, and He expects us to use both. It is impossible to write or speak without using generalities. Try writing a letter or giving a speech without using a generality. You can’t do it.
When we are reading an article or listening to a speaker, are we giving them the benefit of the doubt? Are we “believing the best” (1 Cor. 13:7)? Are we “taking heed how we hear?” Our conclusion of a speaker or writer will almost always match our expectation (2 Cor. 2:14-16). Are we listening to learn or are we listening to try and find one piece of information we can twist to distract from the actual issue? Only you can answer that.
We must take generalities within their context. When someone is speaking in generalities, don’t get overly worked up. Take it for what it’s worth. Listen for qualifiers and look at context clues. It has been my experience that many of those who complain about generalities complain only when generalities are used in a negative sense. Furthermore, they usually complain because they got offended knowing they were the guilty ones under consideration. When Jesus spoke about tax collectors in a generality, He wasn’t referencing all tax collectors for one of his disciples was a tax collector.
We need to quit looking for ways to get offended and upset. That is childish behavior. Paul said:
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11).
It is childish to get purposefully offended by something not even intended by the writer or speaker. Let’s make sure we are believing the best and putting childish things behind us so we can properly listen to the writer and/or speaker. In conclusion, “everyone” uses generalities—and you do too. Give the same benefit of the doubt to others that you would want given to you.
– Kevin Pendergrass
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