"You're so stupid!" "You're fat!" "You're a failure."
"She's smarter than you, more qualified, prettier..."
"I can't!" "I am ugly!" "I'm not good enough."
We all know what it feels like to have another someone apply a man-made label to us. Words casually or critically spoken have the ability to weave their way into the fabric of our being. We begin to identify with these man-made labels and let them effect how we see ourselves, whether they are true or not.
Designer labels are placed on us by God, our Creator. Designer labels emphasize the importance of who we are in Christ and our true identity as it is found only in Him. They are not at all like the biased labels placed on us by our parents, siblings, teachers, spouses, co-workers or complete strangers, even ourselves.
Proverbs 18:21- “The tongue has the power of life and death...”
This is Part One of a two-part series that will address the labels we wear. Learning to see ourselves as God sees us takes time. It is worth deep examination. We will learn to embrace the labels that hold truth and value. We will feel the freedom of removing the ones that should never have been there in the first place.
Labels have the power to hurt and the power to heal. Negative labels have a tendency to be very sticky. No matter how hard we try, they seem impossible to remove.
Like price stickers glued to the glass of a beautiful picture frame, remnants of labels we thought were gone remind us of who we believe we truly are, deep down inside. No matter how many self-help books we read or positive affirmations we speak, the magnetic force of negativism relentlessly pulls us back in to its clutches. Positive words and labels seem to slip right off. Why is it that it takes so many more positive comments to replace one negative one? We will need to work extra hard to change that pattern of thinking and renew our minds!
Growing Up With Labels...
Growing up, I wore many labels. One of the earliest I remember was the feeling that I was “Different." I was born in a very small town, and was told I was premature. Come to find out that would have been four and a half months after my parents were married. (Chuckle). Now, according to today’s standards that is probably no big deal, but in a town of less than one thousand people, I’m sure I was the talk of the town!
That would not have been so bad, but I do remember hearing when I was very young that my parents “had” to get married, usually out of my dad’s mouth when my parents were arguing. It definitely was a sticky comment that, although I didn’t quite understand it, stuck. The label “Different” stitched itself into the fibers of my sensitive soul early on in my life.
Not too long after that, I became painfully aware that something was very different about our family, especially my dad. He seemed to drink and then get mad, and it would escalate into arguments between him and my mom. So another label made its way into my heart, “Daughter of an Alcoholic”.
Living With Labels...
As life went on, other labels became part of my identity: Smart, Unattractive, Big-Mouth, Christian, Protector, Ashamed, Phony, Wife, Mother, Provider, Strong, Perfectionist, Control-Freak, Bad Mom, and ultimately, Mother of an Addicted Child.
Some labels were wrong. They didn’t belong there. Others were correct and felt good. Either way, labels that were meant to DESCRIBE my actions or behaviors became labels that instead IDENTIFIED me, my worth and my value.
The truth about man-made labels is that they are inconsistent and biased. They change depending on the people involved, their own life experiences, hurts and hang ups. We are not the same people we were when those labels were placed on us. Our lives our fluid. They change, and we change along with them. They were never meant to stick, but stick they did.
Because man-made labels are placed on us by human beings, including ourselves, they are tainted and not always accurate. Some are dead wrong.
While these labels are meant to describe our actions or behaviors, they are not meant to define our identity. Man-made labels can keep us trapped in lies of false beliefs about who we really are. We respond to them, either correctly or incorrectly, based on what we believe about them.
Created With Labels...
This is not the case with our Designer labels placed on us before we were born by our Creator. Our Designer labels are personally crafted by God to define us because our identity is in Him. He created us, and He is the only One who has the authority to label us.
He has labeled us with His Name, and that’s the only label we need.
Isaiah 43:6-7: “Bring my sons and daughters from the ends of the earth - everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
For me, I had to learn to see myself as Christ sees me. I had to exchange the man-made labels, whether right or wrong, with Designer labels if I was truly going to be free to live in the light of truth. This has not been easy, and it is a daily struggle to see myself as the Lord sees me. It is also a challenge to see others as Christ sees them.
Taking Off Man-Made Labels...
The first step in learning how to take off man-made labels is to learn who you are in Christ, as revealed to you in His word and through His Spirit.
Psalm 139:14 NIV - "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
Proverbs 31:25 NIV - "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at days to come."
The words the Lord speaks to us speak truth; they speak life. They bring healing and remove the last bit of stickiness from the old man-made labels we still wear.
For today, remember whose child you are. Let that truth weave its way into the very fiber of your being. You are chosen, and you are loved. This is my prayer for you, that you will find your identity, worth and value in Jesus, and in Him alone.
If we truly desire to learn how to take off man-made labels, we will first need to see ourselves through our Designer's eyes. We will look at bit closer at our Designer labels in our next study, Put On God's Designer Labels.
1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”