His response was simple, "It came with my new computer and I like my Macintosh."
I laughed and pointed out that if you are going to send one message to the world with your car, why not let it be your preference in computers. We moved on, removed the apple, and have since returned to vehicle simplicity and anonymity.
The lesson I am desperately trying to illustrate here, my friends, is that:
"YOU DON'T HAVE TO WEAR A LABEL JUST BECAUSE IT IS HANDED TO YOU"
I have been doing some thinking about labels lately and our tendency to let them define us. When I talk about labels, I am not talking about the foundational ones that we cannot escape from like mom, sister, and daughter. Think of those like the Honda decal on my car. They come with the vehicle. I am talking about the additional labels that we choose to take on or let others place on us like stay-at-home mom, pastor's wife, disabled, overweight, working mom, missionary, empty nester, Republican, divorced, widow, crazy, damaged, new mom, home school mom, and I could go on and on. You get the idea.
Take a minute and think about the labels you have taken on and then let's 'talk' about them.
I Believe 6 Things Are True of Labels:
1. Labels place performance burdens and expectations on us that God may not have intended for us to bear.
The problem here is that we then feel the need to live up to those expectations in order to be faithful to our label.
"You are a stay at home mom so you should be the room mom and President of the PTA. "
"You are the pastor's wife (or kid) so you should behave perfectly and be at the church for every event."
"You have a degree in XYZ so you should be using that to support your family financially."
2. Labels are used to try and define our state of mind or emotional response (and they are usually wrong).
The problem here is that we either take on a negative emotion that we would not have felt had it not been suggested to us OR we feel guilty for not feeling the positive emotion.
I was a blockhead a few months back and kept asking my friend, who had just returned from the mission field, if she was excited to be settling into her new home. Of course, she was just trying to adjust and catch her breath. Thankfully she was gracious enough not to tell me where to stick my assumptions of excitement.
"You are an empty nester now, aren't you so lost?"
"You are a new mom, you must be happy all the time to have that new baby."
"Your husband is a disabled vet, wow you must feel so burdened."
"You are single so you must be lonely."
3. Labels make unfair assumptions of our attributes.
Individuals then relate to you based on those assumed attributes and that never ends well. You know what they say about people who assume things. :)
"You are a missionary so you must be super-spiritual."
"You are tattooed so you must be rebellious."
"You work outside of the home so you must not enjoy your kids like stay-at-home moms."
"You are overweight so you must be lazy."
"You trusted that man so you must be naive, stupid, or gullible."
4. Labels try and define our perspective.
In this situation we are grouped with others who carry the same label but possibly not the same values. I believe this is where ministry is most hindered.
"You are a Republican so you must hate people on welfare."
"You work out and eat healthy so you are probably judging me for not doing so."
"You are a home school mom so you don't approve of my kids who go to public school."
"You are a Christian so you must hate homosexuals."
"You are a police officer so you must hate black people."
5. Labels ascribe value.
Two jacked-up extremes come to mind with this one - professional athletes and orphans. We ascribe great value to one because they can run fast or throw a ball and zero value to the other whom God refers to caring for as "pure and undefiled religion."
"You come from money so you are special"
"You are divorced so you are not valuable"
6. Labels try and define your future.
I work every day to fight this lie. Whether it is in my clinic or my home, I battle the notion that being disabled defines what you are capable of.
"You are being raised in the projects so you are destined to do drugs or end up in prison."
"You are a pregnant teenager. Your life is over."
"You are childless so your future won't be fulfilling."
Do you see any of these 6 attributes in your labels?
Some friends of mine made 2 other great observations that I want to share with you about labels:
- "If this is in any way like the bins that are labeled at my house....the labels aren't always what is truly inside or are not the only thing inside "
- "To add to the conversation about labels placed upon us, I'll give an example from my childhood. People inside and outside of our family often complimented my older sister's looks and my book smarts. We were constantly labeled as "the pretty one" and "the smart one." While we always had (and have) a very close relationship, those labels did breed insecurities in us both. As adults we've talked to each other about how she never felt smart and I never felt pretty. An example of how labels can often make people feel limited or less worthy, even when meant as compliments."
2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
- Identify the labels you have take on.
- Identify how you have let them define your performance, emotions, attributes, perspective, value, and future.
- If you are like me, you need to make a list to make it real.
- Replace those labels with "in Christ" and replace those attributes with your position "in Christ".