Bridging the Divided

The Problem With Labels…..

The problem with words we use to describe people is that words have connotations attached. Some words have positive and pleasing connotations, others do not. The connotations provide the basis for the emotions we feel when we hear the words or descriptions. The words we use often fall into the category of labels. 

Humans need to label things because it helps us make sense of the world. But that being said, when we hear certain words the connotations and their associated emotions swirl in our brains. For instance, when a person is identified as attractive, we add our own labels, whether true or not, and our emotions follow. Same with, “she’s a bitch”. What comes to mind? We may not have met this person yet, but the emotions will quickly rise to the surface when we do, crowding out any possibilities to the contrary. 

Labels also provide societies with unwritten rules of conformity. Most people fit into acceptable categories of conformity, others do not. I am not a fan of conformity. Conformity prevents us from growing and learning. Obviously, societies need to have some conforming rules to maintain civility and order – like we shouldn’t be stealing from or killing others. I think that should go without saying, but I have lived long enough to know that many things that should go without saying fall into the category of common sense – and common sense is not a flower that grows in many gardens. 

Labeling and categorizing people, however, can inflict unnecessary harm. Life is hard enough without intentionally inflicting harm on others through labels. Take, for instance, the volatility surrounding George Floyd’s death last year. Whatever opinions people may have regarding the situation, George’s death did bring to light the very real inequality that still exists between the races. When someone describes another person and describes them as black, whatever connotations are associated with color or race rise to the surface. If the connotations are negative, feelings will be negative and cloud any possibility of objectively thinking about that person. Same with describing someone as gay or homosexual. I know many people who bristle at the mention that someone is gay. What about transgender? That is definitely a can of squirming worms. Depending on our thoughts and emotions regarding others, negative or positive behavior toward them will soon follow. Our behaviors arise from intentions within the heart.

We tend to forget that everyone is someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, child, friend, or spouse. Labeling also hurts those who love the individuals we label. Assigning labels is akin to judging. We don’t like to be judged, yet we are fine with judging others or being part of a group that judges others. 

God, Divine Love, is the Creator of all, and as Creator, the only One who can judge without labels and their associated connotations. God, Divine Love, judges only the hearts of humankind. Let us try to do likewise…..

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