Defeat by Label

The whole world’s in the label business. Every time we turn around, somebody’s jamming a label on us. Not those “Hi, My name is” stick-ums, Not any sort of tangible, visible label, in fact, but psychological Post-It® notes.

Even early on in life, we’re covered with labels. Sometime in our elementary school years, the labels pile up, label on label, for lack of space. By our adult years, we can get bogged down in the multitude of labels.

The good news is the labels are invisible, so we can still see where we’re going and do other necessary activities. The bad news is the labels are invisible, so we’re not aware of the burden they create or the price we’re paying.

Mom tells us we can’t do anything right. Dad tells us we’ll never amount to anything. One teacher tells us we’re slow, another that we’re a disruption. So-called friends claim we dress like a dork. And on, and on, and on. And we take all those labels in to nurture and feed so they grow up big and strong.

Strangely, we forget that Mom also said we were thoughtful, and Dad often bragged on our sports achievements. Our piano teacher crooned over our “touch.” The Spanish teacher exclaimed about our exceptional ear for languages. Somehow we decided they said those things because they didn’t really know what we were like. Perhaps they lied to be kind. Positive labels we leave out in the cold to wither and die.

We let the well-tended negative labels describe to us who we are, to build walls around us that hold us back. To sap our courage and make it almost impossible to dare. But most of all, to keep people at a distance because, we figure, they wouldn’t like us if they really got to know us.

And we don’t even know how we got to where we are–how it happened or that we allowed it to happen.

We need to clean house, to make an inventory of all the labels we accepted and separate the true from the garbage. Our emotional garbage cans will overflow as we rid ourselves of false, life-inhibiting labels.

And since we can’t change what happened in the past, we’ll understand what we can and let the rest of it go. Replacing labels with anger isn’t progress.

People make mistakes. A teacher labeled Albert Einstein, one of history’s greatest physicists, retarded. The amazing inventor, Thomas Edison, was labeled a useless dreamer. Both were too unique for their labelers to understand, and we all have uniqueness in us.

People control by criticism, especially with children. Some teachers and parents use labels to make children passive, thus easier to handle. They don’t know–or don’t care–about the damage they do. We need to realize the negativity of what they said is about them, not us.

Some people work from the fertile soil of jealousy. They use dismissive, belittling labels to drag down anybody who makes them uncomfortable. They raise destructive labeling to an art form, but no good comes out of it. It’s still not about us–except to recognize the jealousy as a compliment.

Others simply can’t see beyond their own limits. Hedged in by cramped skill sets and modest IQs, they perceive us to be just like them. Unable to see who we really are or comprehend our potential, they label us as far less than we are–and certainly less than we can be.

One more thing: This sort, dump and understand routine won’t be a one-time event. There’s something in us that keeps wanting to reclaim our labels. We’re used to them, and we feel a little lost without them. We’ll have to keep taking the garbage out until it’s gone for good. The truck comes every week, so don’t hold back.

When the old garbage is finally gone, don’t let new trash replace it. There will never be a shortage of volunteers to slap more soul-sapping labels on us, but we don’t have to let it happen. Now we know the deal about labels, we’re in control.

Repeat after me: Most of the time, what other people say about me isn’t about me.

The Christian Secret

The question before us is why the Bible’s central message about Christianity, mentioned loudly and clearly, remains a secret. Even to those who call themselves Christian. The New Testament is filled up, packed down and running over with a message that few people recognize, let alone understand.

Most people, even most Christians, define Christianity as being a good person. If you’ve never been to church, I can understand this lack of knowledge. But if you’ve spent time in a pew, you should know that can’t be the answer. Read more »

Are You Really Going To Vote For What God Hates?

Well, everybody knows that God is love. But few know that the Bible says God hates seven things. God hates things that destroy love or make love impossible by building barriers between us and others and God.

Here’s how Proverbs 6 puts it: Read more »

Weird Career Advice That Works

Some years back, my youngest brother joined IBM to sell computer systems. Since I had worked in IBM’s computer sales, he asked if I could offer some tips about success. Read more »

Which Way to Wisdom? -Bette Dowdell

Since my dad and mom were both preachers, I spent a fair amount of time in church. And since both were good preachers–and knowledgeable–I even listened to what they had to say. Daddy’s approach was intelligent, logical and humorous while Mom sparked her sermons with occasional fire-breathing, pulpit-pounding moments. Neither had a problem with sleepers in the pews. Read more »

May I Say God If I’m Not Cursing?

Bette Dowdell

Some people nowadays lack interest in the “love your neighbor” concept. None of that wussie stuff for them, thank you very much. That’s for lilies. Read more »

Why Satan Got Kicked Out of Heaven

God created Lucifer, now known as Satan, as one of the three top angels in Heaven. Read more »

Raising Kids: Don’t Expect Clones

I’m a cookie baker of some renown. I enjoy baking cookies, and much practice has made me pretty darn good at it. Read more »

Raising Kids: The Death Spiral Days

Anybody who’s been around kids knows about death spiral days. Tell me this comes as news, and I’ll say you haven’t been paying attention. They happen in the best of families. Read more »

Learning Pain’s Lessons

So there I was in Home Depot, checking out the caulk. As I read labels extolling the virtues of each particular type of caulk, I heard a young child’s voice behind me, firmly announcing the day’s schedule to whomever was with her. I turned to see a young father, clearly ga-ga over his little girl. Read more »

The Terrible Consequences of Conformity

All kinds of people push conformity. But why? Fitting in may sound harmless, but it leads to all kinds of misery. We need to talk about this. Read more »

Salvation Army Christmas Kettles

(An excerpt from On We March: A memoir of growing up in The Salvation Army) by Bette Dowdell Read more »

A Salvation Army Christmas

An excerpt from On We March: A memoir of growing up in The Salvation Army by Bette Dowdell Read more »

Get It In Gear

Some say, “Good things come to those who wait.” It’s a funny thing, though. Good things almost never come when waiting’s all that’s happening. Read more »

Earning a Praise and Worship Brown Belt

Pity the poor novice who innocently walks into a ‘with it’ church to worship. They expect to hear a little music, perhaps a reading from the Bible and somebody talking about God. Read more »