Tracks In The Dust

A Father's Advice About Learning the Mission of Life

Applying Labels

I suppose there is a basic human need for people to want to identify things with a label.

Some people use those little label making machines and label everything in their office or home so there is a sense of organization, others at the grocery store examine labels for contents to be sure they understand what they are eating, while others desperately work to label the identity of the people around them.

Labeling people seems to be a very challenging exercise, sometimes using only one label when another may be just as applicable. Just trying to find a single label that can apply is very dangerous, with it comes all the assumptions of what that label can mean because of personal prejudice or society’s definition.

Labels may be a political one, or about your religion or choice of partners. But there are labels everywhere. It’s not like labeling the container in your kitchen “sugar” when there is sugar in it. Pretty easy, because you can be pretty sure that is what it is when you see it and taste it.  Labeling people is so much more difficult to do. With those labels also come some preconceived notions of what that means about the person.

There is a great sense of order by grouping things that seem to be alike under one label. For many of us it is a need. Coming out of that, there is a sense of leaving less to the unknown by having labels assigned. Labels seem to provide peace-of-mind that we know about our world around us. It confirms that we are in control.

Without labels we can lack the idea of being aware of our world, often it may threaten our perceptions of things. How can something be good and bad at the same time? Where are the lines that define the shades of grey? Who decides? It can be defined by opinion or a vote… but who’s opinion and what vote?

So today I am struck by the casual and frequent comments I hear all around me about people and their labels for someone else, and how often that leads to misunderstanding, hatred, prejudice and the lack of willingness to know any more once the label is “assigned”.  It can cause a lot of conflict that makes relationships disintegrate, make friends move on, and choices for the future be skewed.

Of course we all have our own personal labels, those that identify us. We create those as we live our lives and make our choices. We often may be proud of that definition. We should. We may not share that with everyone else, because that alone could lead to a label that others may choose not to understand.

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