Labels: Knowing Me, Knowing You?
“Don’t rely too much on labels, for too often they are fables.” ~ Charles H. Spurgeon
Sometimes I hate labels. Oh, I like their usefulness when it comes to finding file folders, saving Word documents, organizing binders and books, buying groceries and reading “Hello! My Name is ____” tags at conferences and the like. But when labels are applied to me? Eh, not so much.
I can still chafe at any hint of a reference to my being a shy, quiet, retiring bookworm. I don’t always care how accurate any of those labels may be, they have been affixed to me since my school days; and it seems no matter what I try to do to remove them, they remain. The exact form may be altered, but they are there nonetheless.
At least the ink is fading a bit on some of them. I’m not as shy as I once was, am learning to be a little less quiet and to be the first to engage with other people. Church and work and a very gregarious husband have helped with that, to be sure. But I can still get lost quite easily in a good story. And that’s okay. (Now, as a writer, I can say I’m doing research for a future project or ‘enhancing my craft’ by reading the works of great writers. So nyah.)
Plus it’s hypocritical of me to not want to be labelled into a corner by other people and then do the same thing to them. “So-and-so is bossy”; “He’s married to his work”; “That’s just how they are” have all passed my lips in some form, yet I know I’m not giving an accurate representation of the person as a whole. I’m going with what is quick and convenient – it’s a snippet, a thumbnail photo . . . a label. And I wonder how many people I have ‘stuck in a box’ with a carelessly placed or oft-repeated label?
Now as I mentioned at the beginning, labels do have a place in life. They are not without use and purpose. We just need to be careful to not miss the person behind such identifiers, and to not allow those labels to stunt a person’s (or our own) growth.
*Photo Credit: nightthree (Creative Commons)