How do you feel when you’re labeled?
I’m not talking ‘wife’ or ‘mom’ kind of stuff.
I’m talking criticism and judgement, like “hypocrite”, “gaudy jewelry lady”, “hair that hasn’t left the 80’s”, “why did they let her on the worship team when she can’t sing?”, “always has to be the center of attention”, “never makes a home-cooked meal and keeps fast food chains in business” kind of labels.
Last week I wrote about how women tend to assign labels to each other, and explained why we must stop that tendency. God doesn’t like it when we look down on each other, when we criticize, judge, and gossip about each others’ weaknesses and mistakes.
So when others label you, does anything constructive come of it? Or does it only bring feelings of shame, worthlessness and condemnation? Do you want to rise to your defense, or thank them for pointing out your weakness?
I’ve been misjudged a lot over the past year – by people who consider themselves to be Christians.
– I’ve been accused of being ungrateful for some services provided to me.
– I’ve been accused of being unloving and looking down on others who are not as ‘spiritual’ as me.
– I’ve been accused of being jealous because someone has better counseling skills than me.
– I’ve been accused of being wrongly favored with gifts that I didn’t earn or deserve.
Those people carried their anger and assumptions for months, growing bitter. Barriers were built, cutting us off from each other and developing hard hearts.
And I suffered under the weight of their labels. I was so hurt that they would twist the circumstances and think badly of me when I had done nothing wrong.
We can’t stop others from labeling us. They get to choose their own attitude and perception. They develop their own set of expectations that they think are appropriate for us. And they may believe the devil’s lies about us.
But we can choose not to let their views make us feel bad.
We can overcome labels other people have put on us.
1) Before we dwell on the issue too long, we have to decide what is really going on. Was the situation a misunderstanding that the enemy manipulated to cause division among believers? Did I accidentally hit on the other person’s insecurities? Does the person have unrealistic standards?
I discovered that in each of the issues I listed above, these things all played a part, and it helped me keep a better attitude toward those people. Hurt people hurt other people, and they certainly don’t have a right view of the world until God fully heals them.
2) Next, we need to look at the truth in the situation. There is always a measure of truth when a label is applied. The question is whether we actually sinned in the situation. Just because another person feels wronged doesn’t mean we did anything wrong.
In the above situations, I prayed for God to reveal where I was out of line. I could only find two sins, of which I repented. God showed me the rest was simply a matter of perspective, and there was nothing I could do about how others chose to view me because their view was tainted by insecurities.
3) Lastly, we have to decide on the right resolution. We don’t have to live under any labels, because it’s God who defines our worth and value. While we enjoy being liked by others, that is nothing compared to how God feels about us.
We have to decide if we need to speak to the individual who hurt us to seek a resolution, or simply let it go. We pray to seek God’s promptings as to who is ready for reconciliation, and who is not. In the scenarios I listed out, only one person was approachable, and when the time came, I was able to have a conversation where we both calmly expressed our feelings. The rest of them have been put on hold, because I don’t believe those people are willing to see the full spectrum yet.
Labeling is hurtful and destructive. We must resist the labels others try to assign us and refuse to let them have power over us. We must patiently endure any unfair treatment. (1Peter 2:19) We are not what others say we are – we’re what God says we are!