Labels are Important
Labels couldn’t be less important.
We name things, we put labels on them, we put them in boxes. We define people by those labels; we define our beliefs by naming them; we define ourselves by the boxes we fit into.
Labels and naming are key components of the narratives that form our lives. They are key to the heroes and characters that fill those narratives, to the role models and villains who show us the way, to the places we inhabit and to the character of those places. A label can be a useful tool, a tool to shape your own past, to shape your future, a tool to define your enemies, to shape how others view them, to belittle and control them. But once adopted labels can be dangerous, can limit and trap us, will mislead us as we are deceived by their seeming safety.
We can be easily deceived by the power we feel in the labels we ascribe to others – the current conversation and narrative surrounding immigration is dominated by the names we’re giving the participants in the story.
In turn there is power in the names we call the places we live, the homes of our culture, the land that gives us identity. If you doubt it, think on the country the English call Wales – a word derived from the old English for “foreigner”, denoting the land of the foreigners. A word giving allowance for the theft of land, the oppression of a people, the attempted elimination of a culture. The name of the land given by the Non-English is Cymry – land of brothers. Guy Gavriel Kay’s beautiful novel Tigana addresses the power of the name of a country, of the power of removing that name, of controlling that name. It’s a powerhouse of a novel and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
We take names and labels for ourselves, we are given them by others. And they have power. But remember this, some are true, some are an effort to control us, some an effort to belittle us. We can choose to take on those labels, we can accept the truth of our identities and we may be those labels, but we are not only those labels.
And there is One who knows our name, our true label, our identities – and they are the truest labels you can take on.
Though there are those who would call you Rahab The Whore, or David The Shepherd, or Moses The Murderer, or Paul The Persecutor or a hundred other things, there is one who would call you precious, righteous and worthwhile. Know your worth my friends, take up those labels you are proud of, accept your identity – but know, no matter your label the King of the Universe loves and honours you.
To hear some wise words on this theme from the perspective of Rahab, here is a brilliant talk from a lady I’m very proud to call my friend (one of the most honourable labels you can accept). Her words are good and true and from God. It’s an absolute Must listen 🙂