Labels

We are all guilty of name-calling from time to time. It’s human nature when you are frustrated, angry, or have been mistreated to lash out with an insult.  We like to label people too.  We label people by political leaning, intelligence, attractiveness, personality, behavior…. Even our Lord had labels attached to him:  glutton, drunkard, blasphemer.

But name-calling and labels aren’t helpful.  In fact, a recent study showed that the way to end racial bias, for instance, is not by calling people racist.  It puts people on the defensive and makes them resistant to the kind of dialogue needed for change.  The results of the study seem like common sense to me, but we still do it.

The Scripture has no shortage of instruction regarding the words that flow from our lips:  “No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4.29) – “All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. [And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” (Ephesians 4.31-2).

And then from Jesus (and this is pretty tough): But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’* will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.” (*empty headed/imbecile)

I’ve got a lot of work to do!

Even seemingly innocent labels can put people in a box when we are far more complicated than conservative/liberal or introvert/extrovert, for instance.  Labels do have a way of cutting to the chase in order to make a point, but it’s good to be reminded that labels don’t tell the whole story; and in a society that is experiencing much division, it is ever more important that Christians pay attention to the precision of our speech.

Becoming What God Intended

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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How time flies! This coming year I will have one child graduate from college, one from high school, and one starting high school. I am exhausted thinking about it. My prayer for all my children is that they take the Holy Spirit with them in all that they do and call on God to aid them in discerning their future. That is my prayer, but I know that it will not always be easy for them to follow this path. The key will be for each of them, if they choose, to be what God intended them to be, as opposed to trying to be what they want to be.

It sounds great to say to a child, “You can be anything you want to be.” But at the core of this statement is often the lie that true happiness lies in fulfilling your will for your life. I have seen many people in my life that reached their goals only to find an emptiness and longing for something more. The reality is that our ultimate fulfillment and joy is becoming the person, not that we wanted to be, but the person that God created us to be. This does not mean that we are stuck in some predestined situation. There are many ways we can live out our destiny and use fully use the gifts God gave each of us. But it does mean that we have chosen a path based on where God is leading us and informed by an insight of the distinct gifts with which we have been created. At the end of that path is a life filled with joy, peace, and contentment.

This is what I want for my kids. May they find their success by discerning God’s will and becoming the wonderful people that God intended.