It’s a part of life. We seek to label others, whether for organizational purposes or purely out of jealousy. That person is young, old, black, white, rich, poor, divorced, single, ugly, pretty, a good mom, a scary person, a loser, a world shaker. It is part of our human nature to see someone for the first time and attempt to define them.
This is useful at times, but can become devastatingly destructive as well. I shared a story at The Study last Tuesday about a kid I knew in grade school who wet his pants…once. When he got to middle school the stigma stuck and so on through high school. At our 20 year reunion, he had become a doctor and in most of the world’s eyes, very successful, but when he entered the party, some alumni in the corner whispered “hey look who it is, the kid who wets his pants.”
Rahab was labeled a prostitute because, well, she was one. She was’nt labeled a mom concerned for her family or courageous women who helped the Hebrew spies. Even much later in Hebrew 11, she is listed as a person of great faith, but still referred to as Rahab the prostitute.
We all have been labeled by others. Sometimes we even label ourselves. Just because you had a baby at 16 doesn’t mean you can’t live a great life as a mother. Just because you ended up in a divorce doesn’t mean you’re destined to live a lonely destitute life. Just because you are a felon, doesn’t mean you have to stay in that mindset forever.
David failed. He lusted after Bathsheba, slept with her, had her husband killed to cover her pregnancy up. But he also, after being confronted, acknowledged his path and returned to a life of following God. Later, the writer of Acts recalls what God said about David, “a man whose heart beats to my heart.”
I’ve shared over the years, the story of Diane. She had extreme learning difficulties and would walk by my house most days at around the same time. We eventually became friends and she would share about her work putting spoons, forks and knives into a small plastic bag. I worked with her and always encouraged her about how great she was doing, even telling her that if she saved up her money, she could eventually have enough to go to Disneyland. Her family quickly noticed her change in demeanor. She was no longer being labeled “handicapped” or insignificant, she was being labeled a hard worker and a dear friend.
We have the power to shift someone’s life…both positively and negatively. We have to power to build up or destroy. How are we talking to our kids? How do we talk to our spouse? How do we talk about ourselves?
I CHALLENGE YOU
Remove all the negative and limiting labels that have been placed on you and rise up to be the person you were created to be. Watch what words we put on others. Begin to speak life to others and speak life to ourselves.