Don’t label me

Label. 1. A small piece of paper, fabric, plastic, or similar material attached to an object that gives information about the object.

“Labels are for filing and for clothing, not for people” (Quote source unknown)

I have a confession to make. I love to label stuff! It’s how I make sense of things. It’s how I keep things organized. Seriously, one of the best presents I ever received was my Dymo labeling machine! Okay, truthfully I had to buy it myself because my kids laughed when I suggested it would make a terrific birthday or Christmas present! But it doesn’t matter how I received my labeling machine – I’ve got one, I use it all the time and I love it!

When Tim and I got married, our first home was a tiny 4 room unit. We had a living room, a bedroom, a kitchen/meals room and a bathroom/laundry room. Our motto was “there’s a place for everything and everything in it’s place”!

As time went on and we started a family, we moved to a bigger house. But I took this same motto with me and instead transferred it onto the plastic tubs I bought for the kids toys. I had individual plastic boxes for the Lego, Duplo, Primo, cars, Thomas the Tank Engine trains, dolls, Barbies, Fisher Price Little People, soft toys, books, Rescue Heroes, Puzzles…okay, I think you get the idea! In my mind, there was a place for everything and everything was (supposed to be) in it’s place. We have four kids and at one point they were aged 5 years and younger – you do the maths – no matter how well I labeled those plastic tubs – the kids didn’t always seem to agree with my “everything in it’s place” motto!

As our kids got older (and were able to read my labels), in addition to labeling every container in my pantry (yes, I went to a Tupperware party and fell in love with labeled plastic containers!), I labeled the insides of all our kitchen cupboards so that the kids (and Tim) would know where things had to be put away. There were places for the crockery, for the mugs, for the frypan, for the toasted sandwich maker, for the urn and for each size saucepan. Yes, I know, it was probably overkill but hey, “there’s a place for everything…” so for goodness sake, read the labels and put things away where they’re supposed to go!

Just in case you think you might like to try this at home, I might as well tell you now that no matter how many labels I use, the kids still don’t put things back in their proper (labeled) places! They just laugh at me and tell me I have a labeling addiction problem! Tim, on the other hand, is perfectly in sync with my “everything in it’s place” motto! Clearly I’ve trained him well!

I tend to label everything. From the stuff in my pantry, to the boxes of toys (now stored in their plastic tubs in the garage waiting for the day I bring them out for my grandchildren!) to the books on my shelves. I categorize things.

I also categorize people.

Yes, I am guilty of labeling other people and of labeling myself.

I’ve noticed that labels can be funny things. I often find myself labeling myself describing myself  as loud, a perfectionist, passionate, emotional, an extrovert…And I don’t use these labels to define myself positively. I see them as negative labels. I’m too loud. Too passionate. Too emotional. Although I define myself by these labels they are not always accurate.

You see, labels only stick if I allow them to.

And I ask myself, is the label I place on myself a true description of me or is it just something I have been telling myself about me for so long that it has stuck? If I never remove the label, examine it and test it, how will I know if that’s really the real me, or just a label I have placed on myself?

In her book “Unglued”, Lysa TerKeurst says this about labels:

“Labels…imprison us in categories that are hard to escape…(they) start out as little threads of self-dissatisfaction but ultimately weave together into a straitjacket of self-condemnation.”

How true is that statement.

I have often allowed the labels I place on myself to lock me up in a prison of perception – a belief that I belong in that place, with that label, forever.

And it’s a lie!

“A soul who believes she can’t leave…doesn’t.” (Lysa TerKeurst)

The labels I place on myself limit my ability to grow. They cause me to believe that I’m something that I’m not. They stop me from living and fulfilling my God-ordained destiny. They prevent me from being who I am called to be.

As I journey through “Unglued” with my Online Bible Study friends, I will pause and ask myself about the accuracy of the labels I have placed on myself in the past. Do they represent the real me or are they causing me to remain locked away in my straitjacket?

Now I think it’s time I got out my Dymo labeler and wrote some new labels:

I am “loved by God” (John 15:9)

I am “saved” (Romans 5:10)

I am “a child of God” (Romans 8:16)

“Therefore, this means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone and new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

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6 thoughts on “Don’t label me

  1. Love your blog! My mom always labeled everything and it stuck with me! I am a teacher and tell my students over and over “there’s a place for everything and everything has its place”!!! Thank you for sharing!
    ~sherri

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