tired of being labled

i know i label people and put them in boxes that aren’t of their choosing. so i’m not suggesting i’m better than anyone else on this. but this week i’m finding myself weary of the boxes people put me and/or ys in. i’m not mad (that happens sometimes), and i haven’t had my buttons pushed (that definitely happens!). it really is more of a shoulder-slumping weariness that comes from being mis-pegged, or maybe moreso, from not being known.

of course, people have been wrongly maligning youth specialties since it’s 2nd day of life; and i have no sense that this will ever stop. much of this is because of our passionate calling (which has truly become the core of my life-calling — i feel this in my bones) to serve the whole church, to love the whole church — including those who are different than us. those on the more conservative end of the church often brand us as liberals (or eastern mystics!), and those on the more liberal end of the church often brand us as evangelicals (and, when they use that term, they mean it in a very derogatory way!).

in one sense, there’s very little we can do about these assumptions or accusations, other than stay the course, and hope and pray we one day have an opportunity to serve those people, providing a context for a shift in perspective.

but at a personal level, it’s not always that easy. and it’s especially not easy when the assumptions or labeling come from people with whom i’m in relationship (as opposed to people i’ve never met who are making assumptions about me). and i had two of these yesterday, which is what’s causing the weariness right now.

both came from working relationships (not friendships outside of work), and both have me pegged, to one degree or another, as liberal (i’m sure some of you reading this would just tell me to take that as a compliment!). i gave a devotional at a meeting yesterday, and was told afterward, in what was supposed to be a very strong affirmation, that, since ys is considered by many to be shallow and liberal, it was surprising and nice to see so much depth. really, it was an affirmation, and i need to take it that way. but it’s difficult to not sense of bit of that “wow, you’re not half as stupid as i thought you were” sting to it.

the second is more difficult and wearying, because it’s a new relationship i’ve been putting a good deal of energy into, and has been budding into something pretty cool. and yesterday a heaping helping of assumptions/characterizations tumbled out that have threatened to derail the whole relationship. this time, it wasn’t so much a characterization of me and ys as ‘liberal’, as it was a characterization of me and ys as shallow and unfocused.

there are a couple first-blush responses i could run to that would get me through the weariness, but not take me anywhere good. for instance, i could be dismissive and chalk these up to ingnorance. but these people aren’t ignorant, and that thinking would bring an end to any real relationship with them. or, more tempting for me, is to go to a place of spiritual arrogance, along the lines of: “god, thank you that i am not like these people of limited perspective; thank you, god, that i am more like you.” uh, yeah. you get my point. that would merely be a coping mechanism that, in the long run, undermines everything — my intimacy with god, my own growth and self-awareness, the relationships themselves and all my other relationships.

even in typing all this out, i can sense the presence of the arrogance monster crouching in the corner of the room, smiling at me.

10 thoughts on “tired of being labled”

  1. I so agree with you – I hate being labeled!!! And yet I find myself labelling people all the time. Why can’t I stop being so double minded?

  2. I think that very often we feel like Ignacio in Nacho Libre, “The brothers don’t think i know a butt load of crap about the gospel…
    …But I Do!
    There is alot of self-justification that dances around the corners of our intentions. How do we walk away form the specter of arrogance while not denying our strongly held convictions?
    thanks for revisiting this tension…

  3. I used to get all keyed up about being labeled and I probably still would if I was conscious of it still happening. But I realized that I was identifying myself through the organization i was a part of. You can’t help how others perceive YS, and you can’t really help how they perceive you either. But I think it is important to remember that the org or church or whatnot that we belong to is not our identity. Our identity is in Christ, and when we are daily seeking his guidance we can only be true to what He is telling us to do.
    The people who misjudge YS or any well-meaning group may one day change their perspective. I once thought YS was a little wishy-washy,
    yeah. I said it.
    But God is faithful to change our hearts, to give us compassion and mercy, and the grace to look upon others through His eyes. He humbles us.
    I was talking with someone last night who struggles with the way our church does certain things. Granted, there are things even I would do differently- but that’s true in any church. I pray that this person who struggles with judging and spiritual arrogance will receive a heart of compassion towards our brothers/sisters, but remain true to who God wants him to be.
    It sounds like you are organic in your influence over YS and beyond. All you can do, if you see a major flaw or misconception, is to prayerfully go about changing it. ANd if it is beyond your command, trust that God will be your defense.

  4. man I feel that tension – between arrogance and conviction… and I often say, “I hate labels” – and yet find myself judging and labeling “the other” in my mind, often.

    Not long ago I stumbled across this statement attributed to Richard Rohr. Of late I have returned to his statement – it has caused me to really evaluate and consider my thoughts and my tendancy to “label.”

    “Jesus, on the cross, hangs between the “or,” between our polarities or ways of defining ourselves over and against the “other” who is not like us (for reason of judging, putting down, excluding, etc.). In Jesus upon the cross; in Jesus as scapegoat our ways of setting ourselves over and against the “other” are undone. Jesus holds together the differences without rejecting either. There is now neither Jew or Gentile, etc. We are called, in Christ, and by means of Christ, to do likewise.”

    in one peace.

  5. I am sorry that I will not be able to have a relationship with you in heaven, since you are a liberal ya know and all liberals go to hell.

    Of course I am joking but I think it is pretty stupid how people label groups or individuals. While everybody is different, we need to stop focusing on the little things and just know that we agree on the big things.

    I realize that you probably think I am some crazy conservative because of some of the comments I have made, but like I said in a recent email to you I would love to have the opportunity if you ever come to Santa Cruz or the bay area to have some coffee.

  6. I don’t read much but managed to read Yancey’s Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived The Church. I couldn’t resist the title.

    At one point he talks about how Ghandhi treated everyone the same. King or peasant, you got the same treatment, the same love.

    On my best days, when I manage to do that, when I manage to treat everyone as it they are of utmost importance to Christ… everyone is beautiful and full of potential and wonder.

    I’m constantly asking God to help me see things as he sees them.

    I’ve noticed that when I don’t use labels in conversations it’s a good thing but communication becomes more difficult because we’re so used to simplifying things that way. But the conversation also becomes more rewarding.

  7. marko,
    Let me just put this on the table from my own personal point of view. I don’t know if you’re liberal or conservative theologically, and I bloody well don’t care.
    Along with Real Live Preacher you are the most profound writer I’ve come across since Yac. Stop shaking your head in disagreement, this is how I perceive what you’ve written. You write stuff that makes me yell out in agreement (which by the way periodically scares the hell out of my office mates!), you make me think, you make pray, you make dive deeper and try harder.

    Are you perfect? Of course not. First of all there’s that ridiculous beard of yours! You are scheduled (I believe) to head up my way and I’m looking forward to shaking your hand.

    Don’t let the (insert bad word here) grind you down.


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