On Labeling Without Limiting

will's picture

There's this popular belief that we shouldn't label anyone, and there's a certain bit of wisdom there. Take Frank for instance, Frank could be anyone, we don't know anything about him other than he's probably a man. Now let me apply some labels to Frank, he's old and he's a conservative. Suddenly there's all these unconscious prejudices, positive and negative, that come up when we think about Frank. He could have been anybody at first, but now there's various expectations about what Frank is supposed to be like.

The danger here is, what if Frank doesn't fit into those labels? More importantly, what if he doesn't fit into the prejudices people have associated with those labels? I've just done a great disservice to Frank by labeling him. Human beings are complex and unique, yet by labeling him I've made him dull, one-dimensional. He's now a generic person, he's been pigeonholed in our minds.

To the dualistic thinker, it may seem like I'm saying "labels are bad", but that's not my message at all. In fact, I would hope the hypocrisy of "labels are bad" is obvious to the reader. Labels are largely unavoidable, they're how our language works. That's all words are, labels. The word Moon is not really the Moon, the word is like a finger pointing to that large sphere that revolves around our Planet. The word is simply a convenient tool for communication so we both have a similar understanding.

As with all things, Consciousness is encouraged when labeling. There's nothing inherently wrong with labeling, it's the prejudices we carry with the labels that create the issues. Prejudice, that's a label with tons of negative connotations. Most people refuse to see themselves as prejudiced, but prejudice is extremely common. Prejudice is simply pre-judgment, preconceived beliefs about someone or something and they can be both positive and negative. Nearly everyone has them, though looking at them and releasing them offers enormous opportunity for personal growth.

Prejudices limit your vision, you build up so many until that's all you can see. You no longer see a person for who they are, you simply see the labels you put upon them. Everything becomes dull because you believe you already know it. A tree is just a tree, it's no longer a beautiful and unique living organism. Life becomes boring and repetitive, though it's not really life that's boring and repetitive, but your own mind.

Look beyond the labels, focus upon what's underneath. Nearly every time I mention God, it creates some confusion. That label, God, means so many different things to so many different people. It's a very loaded term. Instead of trying to understand what I mean by it though, many try to tell me I'm using the word wrong. At that point it's no longer real communication, it just becomes an argument over semantics.

Labeling is only a problem when you can't see past the label. Everything is constantly changing, yet labels keep things static in your mind. If you can look past the labels, you can see them as simply a tool for communication. They serve a useful function, up to a point. Getting too caught up in them and they'll impede your communication with others, along with your whole vision of Life.


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