THE word, “profiling,” has a bad connotation in the US that is severely torn by conflicts due to issues of race, gender, reproductive rights, politics, ideology, etc.
There in that supposed bastion of freedom and democracy, profiling has meant that a person or a sector of people is stereotyped and labeled, put in a box or straitjacketed. It simply means that people are not respected for who and how they are.
Of course, if profiling only means that, it should be considered as something bad. It is completely discriminatory and goes against the basic tenets of our human, let alone Christian, belief that in spite of all our differences, we are all equal because we are all brothers and sisters and form just one family of humanity. We are meant to love one another. We are supposed to be responsible for the others.
But there is a good profiling also. And it is the kind that we do when we want to understand better a person or a certain group of people who share the similar qualities, like sex, religion, age, generation, political affiliation, economic class, culture, lifestyle, preferences, etc.
If profiling is used as a tool to understand a certain group of people, then it is good. It does not mean that everyone in that group or sector is the same in every categorization we may make.
It acknowledges individual and personal differences while recognizing that everyone shares a certain quality. It knows that equality among ourselves does not mean uniformity.
For me, this good profiling is useful especially when giving a means of formation or when I preach. When I get confident that I have a good profile of the people I will address in some activity, then I feel that I can be more specific and proper in the things that I need to say. As much as possible, I like to stay away from simply mouthing mother statements and generic platitudes.
We cannot deny that there are very observable differences among the different generations. The baby boomers, for example, are different from Generation X who are also different form Generation Y and Z, the so-called millennials. It would be good if we take note of these differences and act accordingly.
As long as profiling is simply used as some guide without stereotyping people, then it is good. That is why, it is advisable always to take note of the more or less distinctive characteristics of the different groups, sectors and categories of people, without indiscriminatingly assuming these characteristics when dealing with these classes of people. We should also be attentive to individual and personal differences.
Of course, life is a dynamic process, and we should not think that our profiling work is a static affair. It will always be an ongoing affair, and will always need some updating, modification and revision, some deepening and widening, etc.
What is important is that we sharpen our skill of observation, taking note as promptly as possible of the new developments. The motive of all this should be to help people, and not for purposes of gossiping and fault finding.
Yes, we have to be clear about our motives for profiling.
We even have to be more specific about the motive of helping people, because there are many ways of helping people. And our idea of helping people may not be altogether good or right, because it can be tainted with self-interest.
To truly help people is to help them get closer to God.
Short of this motive, we can suspect that our motivation is not pure.
When the motive is pure, no difficulty can stop our effort to help.
And our effort at profiling would be exempted of self-serving motives.