Sunday, August 30, 2009

self-labeling

In my last post I talked about labeling. And you may think to yourself,"I don't label others".That may be true and that is great, but what about labeling yourself? Self-labeling can be just as destructive, and is more insidious because we often fail to see it. Some labels are simple and harmless. If you root for a particular sports team, you are considered a fan on that team. I root for the Portland Trailblazers (NBA) so therefore I consider myself a Trailblazer fan. I was born in the US so I am an American.

Some are more fuzzy - depending on your stands on the issues of the day you may consider yourself liberal, conservative, libertarian, independent,etc. It may help you sort out the huge amount of data, information sources, groups, etc that we have access to in the information overload society we live in.

It is okay to a point to self-identify yourself with a label, but there is a danger. You will change over time and the label you may wear today may or may not apply later on in life. You may feel that you must not change some view or other because it will not conform with the label you wear (or conform to what someone else might think that label means). You and your beliefs are more than just some label. Static behavior and belief tend to stifle life.

There is another danger in self-labeling. The self talk that we do can limit ourselves - we can call ourselves names that are judgmental. We don't always say them out loud, but we think them. Ever catch yourself saying "I'm dumb", "I can't do this",or "I am a failure"? That is self-labeling and self-judging and it can sometimes do more damage to our self image than any hurtful comment by another. It can paralyze our lives.

That doesn't mean that we should not recognize and admit when we were wrong. To deny obvious wrongdoing is just as bad. But there is a vast difference between saying "I was wrong" and "I am wrong", between saying "that was a stupid thing to do" and "I am stupid".

And I think we find that the more we avoid self-labeling ourselves the more we can avoid labeling others. It is no wonder that Jesus said that one of the two greatest commandments of God was "love your neighbor as yourself"...if you can't love (value) yourself, how can you love (value) your neighbor?". You were created, I believe, in the image of God. And that Christ gave His life to save your soul. That gives you inexhaustible worth in the eyes of God. Live in the truth of that.

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