I am sorry. I am guilty of labeling others. The genius, the popular girl, the really pretty girl, the outgoing one, the player, the shy one and the list goes on. I do it without thinking and then I stick it to that person and they are stuck with it when they spend time with me. I have seen it happen around me and it has happened to me countless times. And the truth is, labels stifle us. They stick us to a word or type of person that defines us and controls our behavior around certain people. We are so much more than words or the box that people put us in.
So, what exactly are labels? Well, labels are just like what I expressed above. They are types of people or traits that we label others with. We may get to know someone and think that they are shy. We then just put them in the box of shy people. We may see someone and put the label of popular beautiful girl. We just put them in a box of the popular’s. We may even express to them that they are quiet or that they are a really innocent person (I am speaking from personal experience). We may mean it in good intent or we may not. Either way, it can be harmful. The only label everyone has is a child of God and dearly loved by the One who created us. That is who we all are at the core. Labels destroy what God made us to be, and they can effect many negatively. I wanted to raise some awareness of the negative effect that labels can have on us, so here it is.
> Labels hold us back. “People are complex, multifaceted, and multidimensional. When we apply labels to them, we put on blinders and see only a narrow view of an expansive and complicated human being.” (linked here)
Every person is so complex and so incredible that we can’t just put one label on them and call it good. I have been labeled by some of my peers as the shy and innocent Christian girl. I have been told that I am too innocent and that I should have some fun. I have been congratulated for doing “rebellious” things. I have been learning recently that it is okay to be seen as innocent because I am called to be holy and faithful to Jesus (Romans 12:1-2, 1 Peter 2:9). I have been growing in my identity as a daughter of the King. But still, the labels holds me back. They hold me back from being completely myself around certain people because I know how they feel about my innocence. I sometimes act differently around certain people because of the way they see my relationship with God. I have been told that I am shy and quiet for a long time. And you know the sad thing? I have started to believe it. I have started to believe that I am nothing more than someone that is shy that has nothing to say.
The labels we put on others or on ourselves hold us back from growing and changing. We use those labels as our personality and then we never see ourselves as nothing more than those words. When we label others, we see them as just that thought and nothing more. But, you know what? People change and grow. People were created beautifully with a unique purpose in their life. They are much more than smart or pretty. They are unique, funny, loving, merciful, fun, and children of Him. By putting labels on others, we hold back the potential for them to grow and discover their God-given identity as a person. We hold them back from the life that God has for them.
> Labels make us feel alone and lost in our identity.
When a person is only known by one thing, then they don’t have the freedom to step outside of that and fulfill who God made them to be. By labeling others, it confuses them and makes them forget what their identity really is. It makes them feel like their identity has been lost in the words we use for them. Our identity feels lost when we have other people’s labels defining us instead of hearing God’s voice above it all. Labels can cause loneliness among people and friends. We may be surrounded by people, but still feel so lonely because we are consumed with worry that we aren’t fitting the label they have given us. We may want to change, grow, and improve on new things, but not go for it because of fear of feeling out of place in the labels we have. When people label people it causes confusion and a sense of identity crisis. Labels break down the identity the Creator gave to us into something that is just a thought.
> Eventually, we start to believe and only know the labels.
Like said above, we may start to only know these labels about ourselves and nothing else. We may even start to label ourselves with other thoughts or degrading words. People label us and that is all we are known for. Oh yeah, that is the really pretty girl that has so many guys around her. Oh, and that is the smartest guy in our class! And she is a little slower, but she is still cool. If this is all we hear, then eventually we will adopt those labels and define ourselves only by that. I am guilty of this. I have taken the labels and pinned them on myself. It is hard to fight against them when it is all you hear and tell yourself.
This is why I wrote this blog post: to make you aware of what our thoughts and labels can do to others. Labels put us in that box and eventually we may stay in that box for years. We may want to step out or be known for so much more than just popular, but we can’t because we are afraid to step out.
So, what can we do about labels? We don’t have to listen to them. It is so hard to reject the words that are thrown at you. But, listen to God’s voice above it all. Ask Him to reveal your identity and He will do it slowly. He shows us our identity over time. He doesn’t label us but, gives us purpose and true life. If we serve and honor Him, then we will discover who He made us to be. He made us to be so much more than the labels.
If you feel yourself labeling others, then remember who they are in Jesus. Remember that He has put a calling on their life before they were conceived. Remember that He has made us all complex and beautiful in Him. Remember that God calls us to love one another (John 15:12) and spread His light. Labeling hinders our ability to fully love. Labeling can bring others down instead of lifting them up with encouragement and lifting them up in their identities in Christ. To all of my readers, see each person with the love and compassion of Jesus. Make it your purpose to get to know them and find who they are in Jesus. Uplift others and spread His truth. I love you guys. Thank you for checking in and reading! More to come. 🙂