Throughout the 2019 Calendar Year, I had been struck by how we tend to view people based on the labels we put on them. We then treat that person based on the label we have applied to them (I am guilty of this). Making this more traumatic is that we don’t care whether the person accepts or rejects the label, in fact, how often do we label someone without even telling them, or talking with them about it?
I wrote an article last year titled “Keep Going, Keep the Faith, Keep Pressing Forward“. In that article, I shared how I may not fit what some Christians may view, in their mind, a typecast perception of a Christian profile. I am not talking about the profile of love, caring, compassion, or the fruits of the spirit as shared in Galatians 5:22-23. I am talking about that of a personal bias, an opinion, a “religious” belief that forces a label on someone else because they don’t fit your idea of a model Christian. And then, the person with the “label” is treated according to that label – whether they are aware of the label or not (they just know that they are being treated differently by some people than these same people treat others). And this my friends, is one reason why, men in particular, are walking away from the church.
I recently came across an article by Rebekah Lyons and I thought it was beautiful, it really spoke to my heart. The article below is a paraphrase of what she wrote and is not her full article but I pray that the spirit of what she says below resonates with you just as much as it did me.
Excerpted from an article by Rebekah Lyons
I’ve been struck by how many conversations revolve around our labels. “I’m ADD, OCD, manic, depressed, disabled, handicapped, diabetic…” The list goes on and on. We throw out labels as if they clarify who we are, maybe even our most defining marks. We use these descriptors as a way of helping people keep their expectations of us in order. The problem is, when we use one of these labels to describe ourselves, they often give us our deepest sense of identity. We believe the lie that the label defines us. We shift from believing a particular label is something we face to believing it’s someone we are.
This sets up expectations of an indefinite future with a predetermined outcome. Labels are powerful things we can misconstrue as our identities. But what if we came to understand that labels don’t define us? That, instead, they are an explanation to help the world understand things we’ve dealt with or come up against? When we don’t view our identity through a label, we’re able to find ways to thrive in spite of whatever label we are living under. This mindset helps us turn from despair to hope in action.
Today, 76 percent of us believe we best “define ourselves” by looking within.1 That is, if we stare deep into our psyches and evaluate our feelings, personalities, passions, desires, and even addictions long enough, we will discover our true selves. But looking only at ourselves can bring disillusionment and lead us to an empty place. Why? Because though our internal realities are true, they don’t define us. They don’t always show us who we really are. After all, isn’t the self always growing?
Isn’t the soul oriented toward God always changing on its journey to eternity? Staring into a mirror might show us what we look like in the moment, but it cannot show us who we are or where we’re going.
So how do we find our true identity, who we are and where we’re going? The Christian faith leads us beyond the trappings of ourselves and into an identity rooted in something more solid, more immovable — God Himself. Identity in Him is trustworthy and unchanging.
When our identity is found in who God says we are rather than in our highs and lows, our successes and failures, or our desires, affections, or shortcomings, we experience the freedom we were meant to enjoy. When I need to be reminded of this, I read this list of phrases that tell me the truth about who God says I am, and it always helps:
I am a child of God. (John 1:12)
I am a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I am a friend of Jesus. (John 15:15)
I am created by God to do good. (Ephesians 2:10)
I am free in Christ. (Galatians 5:1)
I am chosen and loved. (1 Thessalonians 1:4)
I am the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)
I am not ruled by fear. (2 Timothy 1:7)
I am forgiven. (Colossians 2:13)
I am God’s possession. (Titus 2:14)
I am free from the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:24)
I am a light in the world. (Matthew 5:14–15)
I am secure in him. (1 Peter 1:3–5)
I am loved by God. (1 John 4:10)
If you have worn your own identity label like a name tag, take a moment to ask God who you are in Him. Root yourself deep in that identity. Then, with an identity rooted in the God who gives wisdom, strength, and love, go out into the world, secure and confident in who you really are.
It’s amazing how much more we find compassion in our hearts when we truly know someone. Are you quick to label others? Are there labels that you’ve been trying to break free from that people have given you your whole life?