Do you have a label maker? I do and I LOVE IT! I’m an organizational freak. I like things sorted, categorized and labeled. I go to great lengths to make sure my filing cabinets are color coordinated and labeled clearly. When I taught school, I labeled everything. If you could read, you could fully function in my classroom without having to ask where anything was or where anything went, because it was clearly labeled. What can I say, I like order and organization; however, I don’t like labeling when it comes to people.
While I love labeling things and find it highly beneficial, people are a whole different story. People were never intended to be labeled, yet we do it all the time. Sometimes we do it trying to be humorous, like when a friend trips and falls we call her Grace followed by laughter. As she joins in the laughter, we fail to notice the sting of our words. Other times we intend to be hurtful. Someone says or does something rude and before we even realize the words have left our mouth, the word, jerk, comes blaring out.
We don’t always need to have our emotions on high alert for us to label others. We’ve all said or heard things like,
- He’s gorgeous.
- She’s so smart.
- What a geek.
- She’s really fat.
- He’s an athletic beast.
- She’s so talented.
The reality is, there’s one person we constantly label with our words, and usually not in a positive light… ourselves. We pick up what others have said to us over time and claim ownership of those labels. We become our own worst critics as we play those tapes of disparaging labels over and over and over in our mind on a daily basis. By doing so, we come to embrace them as truth instead of the lies they are. We begin to fulfill the prophesy we’ve spoken about ourselves, even the hurtful ones. Ouch.
Does this sound familiar to anyone: “How could I be so stupid!” Or how about, “Well, that was graceful, not!” Or “Forget about it. He’s gorgeous and out of your league.”
Mark Fritchman put it this way at youth camp a few years ago:
Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your character, and your character becomes your destiny.”
How many of us want our destiny to be fat, stupid, ugly or worse? I’m guessing no one. Yet, we speak those hurtful words to ourselves on a regular basis. It’s not by accident, by the way. It is intentional. Maybe not on your part, but the enemy is working double time trying to destroy us and if he can get us to partner with him by spewing his lies about ourselves and others, he’s that much happier [John 10:10].
Proverbs 18:21 says,
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
We need to choose our words wisely, and not just when speaking about others. We also need to be very selective with our words when we’re looking at the person in the mirror.
The only one who has a right to label us is the One who created us. He says we’re beautiful [Psalm 45:11]. He says we’re wonderfully made [Psalm 139:14]. He’s perfect and He said we are made in His image [Genesis 1:26]. He says we’re the apple of His eye [Psalm 17:8].
We need to use our words to stress the positives we see in ourselves and others. He calls us to do what we can for mutual edification, thus building up instead of tearing down [Romans 14:19].
It’s fine to label things in our offices, our homes or our classrooms, but when it comes to people, we need to put our label makers away.
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