Labeled and dismissed.

July 1, 2015

Last week, my social media blew up as friends and family expressed opinions about the confederate
Image by Thomas Leuthard via FlickrL
flag, race, and gay marriage.

I count myself fortunate to have friends who think differently than I on a range of important topics, and so I was privy to a wide range of thoughts and images being circulated around Facebook.

What I couldn't help but notice, from both sides of the opinion spectrum, was this universal tendency to label those with an opposing view and, then, simply dismiss them.

We use labels all the time. It is a necessary and natural part of our brain's ability to categorize and make sense of the world. Mother, wife, sister, attorney; I am each of those things, yet these individual labels defines only one characteristic, one tiny part of who I know I am. 

It's when we forget that labels provide only a tiny sliver of a much bigger, more complex picture of the people around us that we can get into very dangerous territory.
Dangerous, why? Because by labeling someone, we easily dismiss their entire life based upon a single attribute (regardless of whether that label is even accurate in the first place). We distill their entire being down into a single word and then judge whether they have worth based upon that word.

How many times have we generalized and dismissed a person's view (or entire life) because they are  a LIBERAL. Or because they are a CONSERVATIVE. What else? Atheist, Hindu, Baptist, (insert any religious background here), stay at home mom, working mom, single mom, homosexual, divorced person, gun rights advocate, gun control advocate, African American, Asian, Irish, the list goes on and on and on.

We slap someone with a label, stick them in a group and then, if it is a group we disagree with or disapprove of, we dismiss anything they might have to say. We dismiss their very humanity.

Labeling and dismissing summarily means there is no room for dialogue, no room to find solutions to the ills that plague our country, no attempt to find common ground with a fellow human being.

I'm not suggesting that we all have to reach agreement on a whole host of deeply held beliefs and convictions -- because we don't and won't. But everyone is worthy of respect - simply by virtue of being a human being - no matter the labels on their life.
Lord, nudge us when we use labels to dismiss our neighbors, our coworkers, our fellow countrymen. Help us to search out similarities and common ground rather than dismissing those around us based on labels, on rhetoric, on cable news soundbites. Make us people who unite instead of divide. Amen.

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