Finding Faith in Labels
This is Part 2 of Sunday’s post: Stories from my Childhood
As promised, I am back to tell you what the Stories from my Childhood post has to do with this blog. In college I learned about the labeling theory.
Our dear friends at Wikipedia have a great definition for this:
“Labeling theory is the theory of how the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them. It is associated with the concepts of self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotyping.”
Like a medical record, school records are kept. Notes are kept in students’ files. These things that happened to me in the Stories from my Childhood post were in my files. Every grade I went up, the teachers saw my records and how troublesome and untrustworthy I was. I have no doubt that these ideas lead my teachers to believe these things about me, so instead of seeing the truth, they saw the label. Whenever situations arose, they immediately jumped to conclusions based on what was fed to them by other people. They believed the labels instead of believing me.
Did I do bad things? Of course I did! I set off fireworks at school one day with a few friends. (Got suspended for that.) I skipped class. I missed assignments. But, I always owned up to those things. I was never a leader. I was always a follower. I can’t recall any big troublesome things I did where I was the mastermind. I was always suckered into peer pressure and trying to fit in.
I was never thought to succeed at much. After all, I didn’t do what I was told and I couldn’t be trusted. I was a trouble maker.
Labeling my Children
I know that my kids won’t always make the best decisions and they will get into trouble too. I don’t want them to think they are defined by any labels people might put on them. (I am constantly telling Losh he is NOT disabled) I was struck a few weeks ago when my children were all getting into trouble for something they had not all done. My oldest screamed “You never believe me!”. I knew exactly how he felt and had a nice little chat with him.
As a parent, I have tried so hard to “believe” my kids and not jump to conclusions. I give them the opportunity to talk about what they have done. I also avoid labeling them. I don’t tell them they are bad when they do something wrong. Sometimes they do bad things, but that doesn’t mean they are bad.
I wish somebody had told me the same thing when I was growing up.
I ended up going through life being shy and hardly sticking up for myself. To this day, I have a hard time with confession of any sort because I always feel like I will be shamed/embarrassed or doubted.
Finding Faith in Labels
I was recently reading a book not knowing that it would go perfectly with this post. The book is called The Empty Mirror. It’s a Tween Read about a boy who lost his reflection because some sort of being stole it. The following is a quote from him:
I hated the idea of anyone knowing I was strange. I had some hope that I could keep people from finding out…
But I knew.
Who wants to go around knowing there’s something strange about them?
Weird. It feels weird. It’s making me crazy. I’m beginning to lose track of who I am myself. Maybe it’s my punishment for being troublesome. I wish I hadn’t been troublesome. I wish I was more good. I wish I’d studied more instead of reading. I wish I’d gotten on the good side of (my teacher) like (they) did. They aren’t so hot. They don’t get caught is all. (Others) only think (they) are good.
Those last 3 sentences really struck me. I’ve known this my entire life. Everybody has their secrets. Everybody has their sins. Everybody has their troubling behaviors. BUT! Not everybody gets caught – or in my case falsely accused! For whatever reason, it never really sank in until I read it in that book. It isn’t that other people don’t do these things, it’s just that they have received other labels.
What a freeing thought!
I am not strange. I am not different. The labels given to me have simply been different.
That leads me to the whole point of sharing this.. Why do we label people when we should be encouraging them instead? Nobody is perfect. The only perfect person in this life died on the cross for us. He knows the truth of all things. He knows what we are truly like inside. Instead of stereotyping and labeling people, how about we get to know the real person and not rumors that are spread. How about we encourage people with positive words and not labels, because let’s face it, even positive labels can become difficult to maintain. (Think of the star athlete or straight A student who feels the need to workout or study excessively in order to maintain that label).
Find something that your children aren’t very good at and compliment them on something related to it. Perhaps they aren’t very talented at drawing, but they keep trying. Compliment their persistency or hard work. These things matter, especially during the younger years. Build your children up instead of tearing them down. Open them up to communication and let them know they are trusted. Let them know their opinion matters. Mostly importantly, let them know they are good people.
Were you labeled growing up? What was your label?