On Labels for People

I’ve long admired writers who can sit down, write a post, and hit publish. Like, they write out their actual thoughts and feelings and let the world read them in real-time. I’ll probably edit this post about ten times if/before I publish it.

But I hope not. I want to grow in my ability to trust my own words. To trust my thoughts for being an authentic part of me I unashamedly share with the world because I believe in words and I believe in myself.

We’ll see.

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We are likely moving two weeks from today. Across the country. Into an at-risk neighborhood.

Which leads me to the first reason I’m having a hard time getting my thoughts out at the moment: labels. For people. Why? Why do I feel the need to tell you we are moving into an “at-risk” neighborhood to live among “the poor” and work with “broken” families?

The unfortunate truth is because those labels can sound sexy. Brave. Admirable. I want you to think those things about me. This is all subconscious, of course. But it’s there nevertheless.

I would never introduce myself that way to my new neighbors. Hello, I’m Lindsy and we’ve moved into this at-risk neighborhood to live with you poor people and work with your broken family. Wanna come over for lunch?

Can you imagine?

So why do I feel comfortable saying those things to you? To my friends? To our Partners? I’m still processing this, but I think, in part, it’s because we humans like to hang out with people like us. When we refer to a neighborhood as “at-risk”, it’s because we haven’t moved into it. When we refer to a woman as “vulnerable”, it’s because we haven’t become her friend. When we refer to a child as an “orphan”, it’s because we haven’t taken the time/money/sweat/tears to know their name.

When we’re with people who are like us – in color, economic status, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc. – we don’t even have to consider how our words might affect those not like us.

My head is a swirl with thoughts on why we as humans feel the need to classify other humans. I can make the argument we were all created in the imago dei, I know in my heart this to be true, but the words “orphan” and “vulnerable” and “at-risk” still come out of my mouth. And they create an unbreachable chasm between “us” and “them”.

There’s no bow to tie neatly on this topic. I don’t have answers. I just know the more I learn about God and people, the more I just want to love people, not because it’s sexy or brave or bold, because we were all made in the image of the same God and we’re not projects – not any one of us – we are Image Bearers.

Have you considered the way we use labels to describe people not like us? What thoughts do you have on why we do this?

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5 Comments

  1. Kayla October 12, 2015

    Lindsy, I’m so grateful for your thoughts and your willingness to share on this big weird open space we call the Internetz. I’m wading through the same muck right now. It’s such a tough balance, isn’t it? I want to use my little sphere of influence to shine a light on ministry + injustice, but how do I do that in a way that doesn’t use others to become characters? How do I write with authenticity without overstepping boundaries? It’s a challenge. I don’t think the answer is to stop writing, but maybe a paradigm shift with the language we use and how we tell the stories. Thanks again for putting this out there! xo

    Reply
    • Lindsy Wallace October 13, 2015

      I agree Kayla! And I think a paradigm shift is needed! I attended a breakout session last summer about this very thing – sharing stories authentically – and one person in the group commented that to her it feels like a power thing, like we as storytellers have power over those whose stories we are telling. I thought that was a really interesting perspective and I’m still chewing on it;-)

      Reply
  2. AMEN! Lindsy, this was a conversation TJ and I just had last night! I applaud you no matter how many times you edited this post. It’s a great read and one that hits my heart today. In our own home… and that’s how I’ve prayed as we moved to Lou… that our home would be a Light. No matter how badly our house needs painting on the outside, that the Who on inside is what matters. That we’ll be sharing with and loving people, no matter their “status.” And that we may let the weak-hearted in who need a bit of joy, that the sweet people we already know will feel at home, and that the new folks around will see Jesus’ love in our windows. That we’ll make a positive difference no matter how the labels may look to everyone else. You have great wisdom in your words. Amen and amen.

    Reply
    • Lindsy Wallace October 13, 2015

      Yes Melissa exactly! I know I felt loved and didn’t notice your need for paint! 😉

      Reply
  3. tessfull2 October 13, 2015

    I encountered this while Arsene was here. We attended a Big Daddy Weave concert. Big Daddy shared his story about their trip to Cambodia. He talked about how sad it was and even though he was being honest at the condition of the children and the country — I felt uncomfortable. I felt uncomfortable b/c I was sitting next to Arsene. Later, Arsene shared that though he enjoyed the concert, he did not like how the people, the country was labeled.

    Even sharing at the meet and greet — I felt it is ok for him to share b/c he has the experience, carries the pain, understands the reality yet always says I love the Congo and it can be better. Who am I to represent these woman and children when I have no idea? You must show the good alongside the reality. The hope must be stronger then the conflict. It is a very delicate line for sure.

    The truth is people like cool, flashy, trendy fight for justice words. If it isn’t cool and trendy people do not connect. Even when it comes to ministry.

    I guess it starts here with authentic posts that say.. I am a bit uncomfortable with this verbiage and here is why.

    Reply

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