Today’s world is full of labels with the intent to clash one side against another. Everyone needs to be pigeonholed into a box so we can create sides, generate controversy and friction. This simplifies things, especially for the media who use it to drive ratings. Their argument is that it creates a common reference point for a discussion. I would counter that they are lazy with no motivation to invest the energy to classify people on a more individual basis.
We can be labeled Republican or Democrat; Liberal or Conservative; Christian or non-believer; White or Black; Straight or Gay; Rich or Poor; Smart or Stupid; Jock or Nerd; Steelers Fan or Ravens Fan; etc.
When we ascribe a label to someone we are at risk of making assumptions about what they think and feel. Having made that assumption, we may never then consider it necessary to explore whether it is true or not. This can form the root of prejudice, stereotypes, and ‘fixed’ views about dissimilar categories of people.
The label system is based on scarcity mentality with only two outcomes, when either side wins, the other side loses. Scarcity mentality creates a power base for the perceived ‘haves’ versus the perceived ‘have-nots’; and that opportunities are limited, few and far between. It’s a mentality that tells people there is something missing in life, which of course is useful for Politicians as well as Advertisers. Because if people believe that there is a void, then you can get them to buy stuff or to believe you are working to fill it. This creates a superficial power base. The crux of having these labels is that the ‘label’ is what gets presented and promoted. We begin dealing with a concept in our heads and not the human being standing in front of us.
Consider a tree and you label it such – ‘tree’. Is it just a tree or is it an oak, elm, maple, evergreen, etc. Besides the more descriptive label what purpose does it have – provide shade, a wind block, provide nesting area for birds, provide water absorption, firewood, a fruit tree, etc. It is more than just a tree. If you take time and delve deeper you may find a story or history – planted in memory of someone or a site of a special event (i.e. meeting point, first kiss).
We need to see beyond the label for things we can relate or connect to – a commonality. A college friend of mine, an African American who attended a predominately white college while coming from a predominately black neighborhood, told me (30+ years ago) that he felt he grew and became successful because he focused on what he had in common with people and built upon those strengths as opposed to simply looking at how he differed.
Labels existed in Jesus’ time – Romans, Jews, Gentiles, Tax Collectors – to name a few. The Pharisees were big on labels for the reason mentioned above – power. Jesus based his world not on labels but on love. Some of his disciples, especially Simon the Zealot, wanted to pit Jesus against Rome with the hope that the Son of God would be like David and take up a sword. However, Jesus knew that the instrument to overcome Rome was not the sword but the cross. It was an act of love. “Love thy neighbor” precludes the status of labeling. Every human being including that Conservative, Republican, Christian, Steelers fan you loathe was create by God in His likeness and Jesus died on the cross for him also.
In a character lesson with the football team regarding Respect we touched on these points. The dictionary defines Respect as a “feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” Really achievements, qualities and abilities are needed for respect???? Then the dictionary defines Dignity as “state or quality of being worthy of respect”. So, to have dignity you must have abilities or achievements???? I do not agree with these definitions.
Respect is man-given, I am aware of that, whereas dignity is God-given by His love. However, respect is also ‘God-demanded’. Every person has a God-given dignity that can’t be taken away. Each person has value and is worthy of profound respect. Remember that ‘whatever you do to the least of my brothers you do to me’. There is no room or place for labels in this scenario.
When we get into labels we lose the ‘deference for others’ as we choose to be ignorant. Deference is a courteous regard or yielding to the opinions, desires, or feelings of others; a humble reverence. Deference demonstrates that people and relationships are more important than getting my way.
A world based on love is an abundance mentality (the opposite of scarcity mentality) – it keeps growing. The abundance mentality tells you that there are always new opportunities. With an abundance mentality, the pie continues to grow and the slices get bigger and everyone can have success. It is a win-win attitude. Respect, dignity and deference are all key components of an abundance mentality – serving others, investing our talents, providing love, all come back ten-fold.
God did not create you to run AGAINST others or compete with labels, but rather to run WITH HIM in your heart and head. Remember there will come a time when the wolf and the lamb shall pasture together, and the lion shall eat hay like the ox (Isaiah 65:25). There will be no place for labels.