Where did labels come from? Labeling contributes to some of the deepest problems that we face. Labels are often used to identify, differentiate and separate, often with serving to disconnect us from each other and from meaningful relationships.
Where did the label Christian, Muslim, black, white, gay, straight, fat, skinny, rich and poor come from? People love to label. We use other labels such as bully, nerd, hippie, slut, good girl, bad boy and the list goes on.
But is it necessary to label people? We are all essentially the same, but we somehow find comfort and security being associated with a group, especially when we are fearful and vulnerable, and do not feel grounded in our own skin.
Are we even true to our labels?
It’s a mystery to me how a devout gay Catholic could stand by his or her faith, knowing that the Catholic faith teaches strongly against being gay. I have also wondered how someone who calls themselves a Christian can lie, cheat, steal, gossip, create drama, abuse their bodies or have hatred in their heart toward others when it all goes against the teachings of their faith.
How can the rich look down on someone they have labeled poor? How can an African-American who has been the victim of racism continue to hold onto their own prejudiced ideas about other groups of people?
This context gives very little meaning to labels. Too often, they’re used to judge others associated with a different label.
I believe that labels are man-made. We are all created equally, but man came up with the name Christian. Man came up with the name Muslim. Man came up with the names gay and straight. Labels serve mainly to divide us. When we label ourselves a certain thing, we immediately set ourselves apart from others who are not that thing.
What would happen if we all starting seeing every human as natural part of creation? Not a Muslim, not a gay man, not a Catholic, not transgender, not black, not Buddhist, but a human that is part of a One Divine Source? Could it change the way we feel about others and create more love and togetherness in the world?
There is so much hate in our world right now. Under the current political environment, there is so much hate and name calling using many labels. What is more disturbing is the re-posting and spreading of hate-filled comments on social media.
It’s time for everyone to practice loving behaviors and stop spreading hatred.
I make a commitment here and now to pause and ask myself, “Do my actions support love and inclusion, or do they promote hatred and division in any way? Am I part of a solution, or do I contribute to the problem?”
I commit to see all beings as a beautiful part of the whole. I make a commitment to only allow love to dwell in me. No thoughts of division. I do not subscribe to the notion that one is right while others are wrong.
What are your thoughts when you see someone of a different religion? Do you see the label or the person? What are your thoughts when you see someone of a different race? Do you see their race, or do you see another human being? What are your thoughts when you see two people of the same gender, or opposite genders, holding hands? Do you judge them based on the label, or do you see them as part of the same creation you belong to?
One by one, we can make a difference in our world by simply dropping the labels and being an example of loving kindness toward everyone, regardless of the label they identify with or the one we give them.
After all, we’re not so different. We all just want to be accepted, understood, respected and loved for who we are.
It’s time to drop the labels and simply love.
LGBTQ Atlantan Vince Shifflett blogs regularly on topics both personal and political at vinceshifflett.com.
This column originally appeared in Q magazine. Read the full issue below.
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