Friday, May 29, 2009

Lethal Labels

Why is it that we feel this constant and compulsory need to label one another? There is hardly a person that we meet, talk to, or speak about that we don't place into some sort of category or group.

"This is my friend Mark, he's a mechanic"

"Oh yeah, I have a friend who's gay too, her name is Sydney"

"Yeah I understand, my parents are divorced."

I believe that whether it is conscious or unconscious, we group, label and identify people by certain aspects of their life:

1. Activity or Occupation
2. Identity or Affiliation
3. Experience or history

While each of these categories view a person differently none of them view the whole person.

To see Mark merely as a mechanic, is to miss that he's also a father, husband, and musician... to say nothing of his personality and character.

To see Sydney, solely as a lesbian woman, is to miss that she's a business woman, singer, actress, and again, completely miss her personality and character.

To see me as a child of divorced parents, is especially horrible, because you're now framing my present life in my past history. Nothing can be done to change or re-live the past, so why would we use a definition from it to define who we are now?

I believe there are a few excuses we tell ourselves in order to use labels to define people.

1. It makes it easier to "know" someone.

If I know Mark as a mechanic. Then my conversations with him with be based on that. My interactions with him will stay in one playing field where I know he'll be comfortable and I'll know what to say. By limiting the scope of who Mark is, I will be able to "know" him better.

2. It makes it easier to "understand" someone

If I know Sydney as a lesbian. Than I will assume that all of her decisions are based on that aspect of her life. I begin her lifestyle and choices through the single lens of her label and it makes it easier for me to "understand" her.

3. It makes it easier to "judge" someone.

Like it or not, we all do it. We all look at a situation and decide for ourselves if an action by a person in a situation is either good, bad, justified, etc. We are creatures of habit and do this all day without much effort. By labeling people and grouping them into categories, we then pre-suppose that this group will more than likely be right, while this one will not. By doing this it makes it easier to "judge" someone.

The sad reality is that all of these errors in judgement lead to the same place. A misguided and skewed view of people.

We are beautifully complex creatures. Endowed by our Creator to be unique and different. We do ourselves and the Lord a tremendous injustice when we relegate all of our life down to a single variable or choice.

We must make a conscious effort to break this insiduous trap and see people for who they are, not what they do, what group their in, or what they've been through.

Christ died for all the people of the world.
If we can not see past the label, how will we ever see their soul?

- Just a thought.