Labels can be limiting, close-minded, and ultimately de-humanizing. I challenge you to rise above them.
Ask yourself: Do you see your friends as being a part of a certain group or a set of beliefs? When you hear a name, do you think of the shared memories with your friend? Or do you, instead, think of his or her labels? Have you categorized and compartmentalized the friends in your life? Segments of individuals who are Progressive, Liberal, Conservative…Muslim, Christian, Atheist…Intellectual, Not too Smart…Poor, Rich…Left, Right.
The risk is that we see a label instead of seeing a person. This habit defines our interactions with people.
We are all guilty of this perspective. We compartmentalize people into broadly-generalized segments of belief, action, and identity. The habit creeps into our thoughts and conversations. It is plastered all over social media boards and cable news outlets. We read it on poster-board signs in downtown.
Want to be good? Do good? I challenge you to rise above this perspective. Rising above labels is how one person serves as a change agent for the better.
In history, meaningful, sustained change has rarely been brought about through campus riots, highway-blocking protesters, or sensationalized activist groups. These actions are arguably ineffective, and are generally a product of the last 50 years of US history. Meaningful change is adopted by individual people – neighbors at the local level, or networks of friends and colleagues – seeing and working towards common interests; rising above differences and the categories they’ve defined.
Improvement happens first in our hearts. Then, change for the better happens in our homes, neighborhoods, counties, and states. Change for the better doesn’t just happen at the national level, with a central government bureaucracy governing 300+ million citizens (all labeled appropriately) by dictating orders, laws, and partisan policies.
Want to post divisive memes, argue in on-line comments sections, and find articles that reinforce how you’re right and your enemies are wrong? You certainly can.
Want to set fire to a trash can next to the library, block a highway, or hold a sign in front of the white house? You certainly can.
But don’t tell me you’re interested in change. You’re simply interested in reinforcing the labels you’ve defined in your heart. You’re interested in justifying your beliefs and interactions. Remember, we’re your friends, not your enemies. And we need you to break through the limits you’ve placed on your perspective, open your mind, and rise above.