The hair on the back of my neck stood at attention when I heard someone label one of my loved ones. How dare she say that!
And then I had to swallow my pride and force that hair to lie down as I thought about the number of times I’ve been guilty of labeling others. Ouch!
Nobody wants to be labeled. Items in a grocery store get labels. They tell us what’s in a package — down to the calories, serving size, protein, carbohydrates, fat, ingredients, etc. And they’re usually accurate about each item.
Unfortunately, when we label others, the monikers we assign are typically inaccurate. Why? Because a person is much more multifaceted than that one label we give him or her. Plus, our labels don’t allow people to change. We hope the labeled grocery store items don’t change — and we don’t want them to. But people are more adaptable and complex than that.
People can — and do — change.
If we didn’t change, there would be no reason for us to grow from an infant to a toddler to a grade-schooler to a middle-schooler to a high-schooler to a college student or employee to an adult, worker, parent, and so on. We obviously change physically, and we’re just as capable of changing emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
Numerous people have been told they would never walk again following an accident or a medical condition. And plenty of those people chose not to accept what their doctors said and proved otherwise. One completed his sixth Boston Marathon this year. He was only able to do that because he refused to accept the label of “cripple” or “handicapped.”
If Nicky Cruz hadn’t changed and kept his gangster label, he’d likely be in prison or dead today. Instead, he works to give other so-called gangsters hope and a way out of that lifestyle.
Myriad other examples of changed lives abound. How about instead of putting labels on people, we see what they’re going through as a phase and give them a chance? Isn’t that what you’d want?
Christian, wife, mother of 5, breast cancer survivor, marathon finisher, writer and editor, author of "Help! I'm a Science Project"