This post has been brewing in the back of my mind for the last few days, but today it was as if a lightbulb had gone off in my head. (Yes, I have a lot of lightbulb moments.) It’s a subject that has been near and dear to my heart for many years – one that I have shared in other settings before, but never in blog form. So here we are, talking about labels.
Labels are everywhere. Most of the time, they are very helpful. For example, they are convenient when we are grocery shopping, trying to be more mindful of our sugar intake, or when we’re looking for a specific aisle at Lowe’s.
But labels can be painful too.
Stupid. Fat. Anorexic. Loser. Bipolar. Depressed. Troublemaker. Home Wrecker. Baby Killer. Idiot. Fool. Victim. Suffering from Chronic Anxiety and/or PTSD. Hypochondriac.
These are just a few of the detrimental labels that are out there. Some we might feel justified in using. Home Wrecker or Baby Killer, for example. Don’t get me wrong – we need to stand up for what’s right. But which is more right? Is it better to verbally (and sometimes physically) attack someone for making a choice we don’t agree with? Or to love them through it? Did you know that many times “Home Wreckers” are not aware that the man/woman they are dating is married? Often they are hurt nearly as much as the rejected spouse.
And what about “Baby Killers”? Yes, there are women out there that use it as a form of birth control, but many of them don’t. I would venture to say that a lot of women who seek out abortions feel that they have no other option. And what do many Christians do? They stand there in judgment and condemnation instead of finding a way to help.
But it’s sin! Yes, adultery and abortion are sin. But so is gossip, having a judgmental attitude, and the pride that causes us to think that we are better than them. We must stand up for what we believe in, but in the right way. Ultimately, it’s still their decision.
Shaming them and calling them names is not the way Jesus would do it. He died for them too. God is the Righteous Judge, but He is also Love. It was His love that sent Jesus to the cross, not His judgment.
I wasn’t intending on going there, but I believe God led me to it. It needed to be said.
Some of these other labels we feel justified in using because they are diagnoses we – or others we know – have received. But let me make this very clear. When a doctor diagnoses someone with an illness or a disease, it is a diagnosis of what they have, not who they are.
As Christians, it is our responsibility to look past the labels and find the hurting person underneath. Even if at first they seem to reject us, we need to continue loving them – while simultaneously respecting their space. If they don’t want a hug, don’t get offended. You don’t know what a hug means to them. It could be a form of abuse to them – they could have been held or “hugged” until they gave in to whatever their abuser wanted.
Love them the way they need, not the way you need. If you know they don’t like to talk on the phone, text them. Or if it’s too much for a text, send a text saying, “I want to leave you a voicemail, so when I call in a minute, you don’t need to answer.” And then be okay with just leaving a voicemail.
I have a friend who rarely answers the phone, and even more rarely listens to her messages. So if I call and get her voicemail, I don’t leave a message about what I want to talk to her about. I leave a message expressing how much I love her and her family. How I hope she’s having a wonderful day. That she’s on my mind. That no matter what she’s facing, she’s not alone. It’s not because I think I’m a special somebody that I tell you this. It’s because this world is full of hurting people, and sometimes we need ideas on how to love others when they are different from us.
This post is starting to get far away from what I intended, so let’s call this Part One. Sometime in the next day or so I will write Part Two.
A final note before I sign off for the night. It is so tempting to pretend our Christian lives are peachy, but the world needs us to be real. Not pathetic, “woe is me” nonsense. Real. We are not all called to share our suffering with others – at least not in detail. But we are all called to love the hurting. The pain we have survived can give others hope. God doesn’t waste pain.
There are times when secrets are necessary. But when they are not, secrets create chains – both for those who hold the secrets, and for those waiting to hear them. We share not our dirty laundry, but our hope.
Don’t be afraid to offer hope.