Up until recently, I was one of those people who would use the Not All [blank] defense to comfort a hurting soul: “It’s okay, not all men are assholes.” “Not all Christians hate homosexuals.” ”Not all white people are racist.”
Only recently did I realize that using this line as comfort is the verbal equivalent to using a scented aerosol spray can at a garbage dump. It permeates a small space temporarily, but does nothing to remove the larger stench.
I think, when it comes down to it, rational people already know that “not everyone” shares the same negative traits. The Not All [blank] defense doesn’t do much to improve a very specific circumstance. A woman who is afraid to begin a new relationship when she still carries baggage from the previous one likely already knows Not All Men are like what’s-his-face who caused her pain, and saying Not All Men trivializes her need to heal from the hurtful experience with one specific man.
In my case, Not All Christians trivializes my need to heal from the hurtful words of a few specific Christians, a few specific church groups. When I say I’m taking a sabbatical from church, I mean I’m too burned out to keep going right now.
I got the Not All Christians defense during one of the last times I explained this to an acquaintance. My response was to blink a few times and say, Yeah, I get that. But I’m not talking about all Christians and all churches here. I’m only talking about me.
A statement can be both true and unhelpful, and Not All [blank] is exactly that. It’s hard to imagine that a well-intentioned statement can cause division, but it does. The truth of the matter is, whenever someone tells me Not All [blank], it makes me feel “othered.” It makes me feel even more isolated; that my situation is so unusual and so “out there” that it doesn’t deserve a thorough reflection. Furthermore, if you’re one of those people that the Not All [blank] line applies to, then you have no reason to feel threatened.
When you show people you are “not like that” through your actions, you make more of an impact than simply insisting you are different.