Chaplain's thought for the week

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Chaplain's thought for the week

Revd Tom writes about public reactions to wasps and bees

I read some research recently which suggests that, in a survey of forty-six countries, wasps are largely disliked by the public, whereas bees are loved. Apparently, wasps are among the least loved of insects! People were asked to rate their feelings for wasps and bees on a scale from minus five (strongly negative) to plus five (strongly positive). For wasps the vast majority rating their feelings minus three or below; whereas for bees most people responded with a plus three or above.

When people were asked what words they associated with wasps the most common words that came to mind were "sting", "annoying" and "dangerous". Whereas bees had more pleasant associations: "honey", "flowers" and "pollination". Many of us can probably sympathise with this anti-wasp feeling, especially if they’ve disturbed a picnic or we have a fear of wasp stings.

What might come as a surprise to most of us is that the researchers involved in this say that this view of wasps is unfair because wasps are just as ecologically useful as bees, and that the same efforts should be made to conserve them as there currently are with bees. Wasps pollinate flowers, kill pests and are just as important to the environment as bees. Perhaps we’ll consider wasps in a different light from now on…

I wonder if we can be a bit like this with other people. How often do we divide others into bees and wasps? The people we like and think are good, versus those we don’t like and write off. How often do we dismiss people because of our perceptions or rumours we have heard about them? We quite often divide the world into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, but actually it’s rarely so simple. Each one of is a mixture – and perhaps like wasps, there’s a lot more good in most people than we might think, even if they have a bad image.

In the Bible, Jesus regularly challenged all sorts of stereotypes: he broke social taboos about women, about those with leprosy, about tax-collectors and prostitutes, about foreigners. He always looked beyond the image in order to look at the person underneath, and he taught his followers not to stand in judgement of other people. So the next time we see a bee or a wasp, perhaps it will remind us not to be too quick to judge another person because of their image, their reputation, or their outward appearance.