Thursday, October 16, 2014

Getting Rid of (Positive) Labels

I recently heard someone say, "they only liked me because I ______." While the truth was actually the opposite, the person had reason to feel that way. They had been labeled. Niched.

We all know the devastating effects of negative labeling. Fat, ugly, dumb, short...These words can shape an impressionable soul-forever.

But, we rarely consider the negative effects of positive labeling. Because even though positives focus on positives and strengths, they often only focus on one or two facets of our personalities or skill set. Thus labels can end up being stifling and limiting. What if you want to try out new horizons? Raise the bar? Branch out into other areas of service?

You've been boxed, and niched, and nicely labeled.

Please just stick with what you are good at.

Athletic. Book worm. Pretty. Skinny. Independent. Strong. Good with kids. Decorator. Artistic. A good cook. Organized. Musical. High energy. Smart. Fashionista.

Labels can discourage growth. Labels can cause us to settle. Labels keep us from discovering something that we might actually like or be good at. Labels give information, but not the whole picture.

Positive labels can even blind us to the needs in the person we are labeling.

Maybe the always put together mom desperately needs a day out without her kids. Maybe she is struggling to get it all done and to not be held hostage to her own expectations. Maybe the artistic woman needs a friend. Maybe the fashionista wants to be known for her heart and not her style.

Positive labels emphasize the gifts of God, but forget the calling of God. (the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable...) Labels make the assumption that God would never call us to something that we can't handle or that we aren't gifted in.

But God calls us to do all sorts of things so we can be stretched, molded and turned into Christ's image. God calls us to ministries where we have no skill so the power is obviously all of God and none of us.

So, how can we speak life into people and encourage their strengths without labeling, while giving room for growth and new experiences and cultivation? How can we encourage each other to stretch our wings and fly?

We can: Listen more than speak. Listen for understanding and not to give advice or be heard ourselves. Listen to hear what the person is saying and not saying. We can: Allow room for both successes and failures.

What's the worst that could happen from trying?

What's the best that could happen from trying?

Are you guilty of labeling someone-either negatively or positively? How can you breathe life into their dreams and life this week?