I love my label making device. It’s great for file folders and it helps identify my stuff. At our home, we even have name labels on our kitchen counter, so we don’t fill up the dishwasher with hardly used cups and glasses. Just place your cup on your personal label, and you’re good to go.
To me, labels are a gift from God. Labels organize our lives and put the world in order. I believe that somewhere in Genesis, God created labels. It’s possible He placed a label marked “hippopotamus” on the rump of that giant, grey animal so Adam could more easily come up with a name. I’m not sure about this, but I’m not ruling it out, either.
Yet, even I must admit, labels have a downside. If I’m not careful, I label people. Too often. For instance, we create labels according to beliefs regarding the sanctity of human life: Pro-choice. Pro-life. Pro-abortion. Pro-abort. Anti-abortion.
There is a need, of course, for identifiers on different subjects. Because if I don’t have an identifier for someone’s faith or beliefs, it’s difficult to connect effectively with that person. For instance, if a friend identifies himself as pro-choice, I can better understand where he is coming from when we discuss life issues.
But a simple identifier can turn into a label. And when this happens, it is easy to stick that person in their labeled slot and never let them out. We then miss a bigger picture of their lives.
Recently, my wife Jennifer and I were discussing labels and through this conversation I realized, I’ve been quite the labeler when it comes to people. I sometimes give people a label, then create a story of my own regarding their motivations, their inner thoughts, and even their hearts.
A few weeks ago, my column mentioned Abby Johnson and her conversion to a life-affirming perspective. We’ve seen her story on the big screen in Unplanned. When Abby walked out of the abortion clinic, several in the pro-life community surrounded Abby with love, cementing her decision.
I’m thankful those who first reached out to Abby didn’t simply label her as “pro-abortion,” as if she were somehow an enemy. They saw her as a human being, created by God, seeking to make a difference in this world. Is the abortion industry the right place to do good? I’d certainly disagree. But it doesn’t mean I should stick a label on someone and dismiss that person either.
Tweet This: "I’m thankful those who first reached out to @AbbyJohnson didn’t simply label her as 'pro-abortion,' as if she were somehow an enemy."
Perhaps I’m the only one who ever dealt with the labeling issue, I don’t know. And if I’m the only one, thank God for that. But I wonder if this is a challenge for many of us, one we must guard against.
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Doing some research the other day, I ran across biographical information on someone I’ve likely labeled. She is Jewish and remembers a time in grade school when someone shouted at her, “You killed Jesus!” She went home and asked her mother what that meant, and her mother had to explain the hard truths of life for those with Jewish lineage.
She’s grown up now, a mom of twins. On Mother’s Day, she likely celebrated her children, now four years old. I can identify with any parent of small children because I’ve been through this journey with three children at one point in my life, and later, two more little ones. Five in all. We could probably swap stories.
I’m not Jewish, but I’m aware of what happens when children make sweeping generalizations out of ignorance—maybe because of what they learned at home. I remember being victimized by the harsh words of other children, and I probably dished out a few harsh words myself.
This woman and I—without labels—might have quite a conversation regarding those things we have in common.
In her work, she likely believes she is changing the world for the better. I have the same view of my occupation. But there are differences. I work with Heartbeat International. She is president of NARAL.
Still, I wonder what might be accomplished if I didn’t see her label but chose to see her as a person of value, created by God—a wife, a mom, and as someone who may even see herself as on a mission to do good.
Tweet This: "What might be accomplished if I didn’t see her label but chose to see her as a person of value, created by God?" @KirkWalden
No doubt, there are some in the opposite ideological camp who are angry, who lash out for reasons I cannot imagine. I wrote about one of them last week. But whether it is State Rep. Brian Sims (D-PA), or the president of an abortion-rights organization, I wonder if reaching those with opposite views might start with ditching the labels and embracing those things—even if they are few--we have in common.
Some may be unreachable. I get that. But as someone who claims to represent a faith founded in love, leaving my label maker behind is worth a try.
Tweet This: "As someone who claims to represent a faith founded in love, leaving my label maker behind is worth a try." @KirkWalden