I have a disability — I’m a labeler. I tend to put people in boxes and sort them — liberal, conservative, fat, skinny, rich, poor, smart, stupid, white, black… It’s very limiting. When I place people in a box marked ‘liberal’, for instance, a whole bunch of stuff gets stuck on them that may or may not have anything to do with them. Same thing happens in the conservative box. I like to hang out with people in some boxes, but not necessarily in others. I feel comfortable getting tossed in with ‘smart’ people, but not really with ‘skinny’ people. When I mingle with ‘black’ people I feel cool, when I mix with ‘white’ people (even though I, myself, am white) I feel boring. I have even created boxes such as ‘too-rich’, ‘too-white’, ‘extremely conservative’, and ‘way too fat’. Those boxes are placed on very high, or very low, shelves so that my access to them is limited. I probably wouldn’t mix with ‘those people’ very well, now, would I?
This disability impacts the richness of my life. It keeps me away from a variety of people, diverse opinions, and new ways of thinking. It causes me to think that I am better than those who somehow don’t fit in the same box with me. It sometimes even makes me afraid. I mean, if I have labeled others, certainly they have labeled me. Surely they have put me in a box full of stuff that doesn’t necessarily apply to me. They probably think that I am a rich, conservative, skinny, white lady. I can assure you that very few of those words are accurate descriptors of me.
I hate being labeled. I wish people would just get to know me and value me for the person I am.
But it’s kind of hard for them to do that if they are stuck in a box on a very high or very low shelf. Isn’t it?
I guess if I want others to get to know the true ‘me’, I may have to invest in getting to know the true ‘them’. After all, not all those I have dumped in the ‘skinny’ box have eating disorders, nor are they all models or superior athletes. Some are just genetically thin. Not everyone in the ‘stupid’ box is actually ‘stupid’. In fact, probably no one that I have placed in that box is truly ‘stupid’, maybe misinformed, maybe ignorant, maybe scarred, but probably not ‘stupid’.
I think I’m going to have to recycle all my boxes and destroy my internal label-maker. Actually, I think I could do with just one box — just one label: Loved by God. Everyone could fit in the one box and I could hang out with everyone in there. We all have that one thing in common — we are created by and loved by God. It seems to me like everything else is irrelevant, don’t you agree? He created each of us. He loves each of us. He doesn’t rate us or sort us based on skin color, political orientation, body shape, or socio-economic status. He looks at His kids and He loves us.
He doesn’t have a favorite. In fact, He would love it if we all tried to share our toys and get along with one another. He hopes that we will see Him in one another and grow to love one another. He has created us to complement one another and to encourage one another. Not to label one another.
Somewhere along the line, perhaps we all developed the same disability. It’s not too late to recycle those boxes. Any of us can change.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
He that does not love, does not know God.
I John 4:7-8