Labels are damaging. Labels are self-fulfilling. Labels are a tool of the Enemy. Labels undermine us at our very core. All this is true, insightful, compelling…and completely useless, unless you know what to do about the labels.
What are we to do with the labels? Merely knowing they exist does nothing to pry us from their grip. Action is required for freedom to be attained.
First, we need to identify them. You have to have something concrete at which to take aim. And the best way to identify labels? Simple….listen.
When you make a mistake, what is the first thing you hear from yourself?
What thought goes through your mind? Often that knee-jerk initial thought is something that goes by without much notice, so stop and pay close attention.
What do you hear yourself saying outwardly? Self-deprecating humor usually holds more truth than humor. Muttering “I’m sorry, I’m such a dummy. ha ha ha” can usually be simplified down to “I’m a dummy”. Look at it for what it is.
Self-talk is where your labels become most evident, but you have to be listening. Because it can be hard to recognize. But just because we don’t recognize it, that doesn’t mean it has no effect on us. It has a deep effect on how we think, act, make decisions, and relate.
Second, once we identify the labels, we replace those labels with truth. Who does Jesus say that you are? Does God say I’m a dummy? No, He says “that in every thing [I am] enriched by Him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge” (1 Cor 1:5).
This is a simple example. Our labels are usually much more complex. But complexity doesn’t change the face of them.
Here’s a suggestion:
Carry a small notebook with you through the day. When you recognize a label, write it down on the top of a page. You don’t have to do anything with it on the spot, just write it down, and leave a few pages blank for later.
Then, when you have time, try to write down what caused you to think that way. What thought processes helped form that label? What assumptions did you make? Writing these things down helps you to think through the underlying patterns that form the label, and in many cases those underlying thoughts, assumptions and patterns will look much different on paper than they sounded in your head.
Now turn the page and write down what the truth is. Write down anything that comes to you about the things you just wrote on the previous page. If an assumption looks silly now that it’s on paper, write that down. If a thought process that seemed rock solid in your mind dissipates into mist on paper, make note of it. Pray and listen to what God has to say about the label. If scripture passages come to mind, write those down. This is essentially a brain-dump. Write freely. No one has to see this but you, so write what comes up.
In time, you can go back and look at these exercises, and focus on the truth pages. Replacing inaccurate labels is a matter of practice.
This is one suggestion, something else may work better for you.
But regardless, when it comes to labels, we need to put the status quo behind us. Don’t keep plodding through life letting negative labels define you. You’re better than those things. I know you are. God says so!