Monday, April 03, 2017

Remove the label

I'm not sure what sparked the conept, but for some reason I've been thinking a lot lately about the labels we put on people.  I would really love to write a song with a title like "Remove the label".  But I lost my song-writing mojo long ago.  I'm so obsessed with this idea that most everything reminds me of it, almost like it's a confirmation of my thoughts.  It's only 6 AM, and I've already seen two things on Facebook that fueled the idea once again.

Two people took this in a negative way, and commented accordingly; obviously they've had a bad experience or two.  The strange thing is that when I first saw those words and then shared them, I was thinking of the good in people we never see, sometimes because we really don't try looking past the label.  But this line of thought may be caused by the label topic that's going around in my brain.

Think about the way you hear something about a person, let's say someone you've never met.  An acquaintance tells you a little tidbit about them, and you immediately accept the label and file it in your mind.  It could be anything:  "fat",  "lazy", "druggie"... or it might be something positive:  "sweet", "smart", "generous".  So when you think of this person from that time forward, if and when you meet them, you see the label first.  You had an opinion of her, bad or good, before you ever met her.  

Sometimes it's my own first impression that puts a label on someone, although I really don't socialize often enough to meet people and get to know them well.

Several years ago when I was attending a church a lot bigger than the one I attend now, my oldest grandson was given the lead in the Christmas play.  I was sitting on the sidelines during a rehearsal and struck up a conversation with the mother of one of the other kids, just she and I.  In the course of the conversation she said, "I didn't think you liked me."

I was flabbergasted, wondering what on earth would have given her that idea.  We barely knew one another.  Looking back, I imagine she took my standoffishness as dislike.  Strange thing is, she was someone I actually admired a lot!   Wrong label, lady!

If I would look past the negative labels we have given others, I would probably see so many positive attributes in their characters, it would more than make up for that critical label the world gave them.  I'm thinking of a local person, now dead, about whom I heard several disparaging comments over the years.  I accepted all that without even realizing it until one day I told Cliff, "You know, that man has never been anything but nice to us.  And if he has been that good to us, how can I talk negatively about him?"

As much as I'd like to, I just can't make a song come out of ideas like this any more.  So I'm sharing them here, as is.  I'm making a real effort to "remove the label", if it's a negative one, and look at the contents of the person's soul.  Appearances are deceiving.  For every fault most of us have, there is at least one virtue.  I want to concentrate on the virtues.

How about an appropriate corny old poem written by Louis C. Shimon:

Wouldn't this old world be better
If the folks we meet would say -
"I know something good about you!"
And treat us just that way?

Wouldn't it be fine and dandy
If each handclasp, fond and true,
Carried with it this assurance -
"I know something good about you!"

Wouldn't life be lots more happy
If the good that's in us all
Were the only thing about us
That folks bothered to recall?

Wouldn't life be lots more happy
If we praised the good we see?
For there's such a lot of goodness
In the worst of you and me!
Wouldn't it be nice to practice
That fine way of thinking, too?
You know something good about me;
I know something good about you.

Here's a thing I shared on Facebook today, simply because it made me laugh.  I hesitated sharing it because it's the kind of thing overly-sensitive people take to heart and then make the assumption you are talking about them, but hey!  I post my business all over the Internet just like I'm doing now, so if you WERE in my business, I wouldn't have grounds to complain.  I truly doubt that my insignificant life interests people enough to make them gossip much about me. 

By the way, if any of you has the idea I don't like you, you're probably way off base.  I'm just a little weird, and often give the wrong impression.  I like most folks.  


krueth said...

You are so right when you say we make judgements about people we haven't met based on what we hear. I have learned to really try and not let that cloud my judgement of people, but I think I do it without realizing it. Ugh. Not good. I love your little joke at the end about returning your nose...ha ha! Have a great week. Wendy

Mary Degli Esposti said...

Bizarrely, there are certain times I feel I NEED the schizophrenic label either because people don't understand(like why I'd be so paranoid of a "little, nothing" thing they did)my reactions, or because I "seem fine" so why did I give away my house? Didn't I need a house? You could get used to love to work...(I cannot even respond to that one without wanting to crying uncontrollably).
Well, see I was deeply psychotic when I gave away my house.... Ha ha ha! You? You act normal. Etc.


People mislabel others all the time based on information that isn't complete. Your post really resonates with me today for that reason.

Barbara In Caneyhead said...

I feel like I've been to church! I try hard not to let others tell me negative things about people I have not met. I'm sharing this "corny little poem" in this weeks church bulletin.
Perspectives at Life & Faith in Caneyhead

Paula said...

Almost every time I meet someone new the way I judge them turns out to be completely wrong. Recently three women and two kids started attending our church. Right away I thought they were stuck up. Now I like all of them very much and they seem to like me. They may have thought the same about me.

Margaret said...

I've always felt very liked and supported by you, Donna. I think that's sometimes easier on line than in person. I agree about the labels. I am a liberal, but I have loved ones who are conservative and they are good people. There is too much demonizing of people over politics, religion, and other differences that we should embrace and learn from, not criticize and judge.

Lori said...

I very much enjoyed this post. I feel the same way about labels. I've realized that I've labeled people in the past when I shouldn't have; I think it's a natural thing that all of us do. But I really do try not to do it. And I became much more aware of labels and the damage they can do when I became a mother. I'll share something similar to what happened to you at your grandson's play. Our neighbor on our left has lived in this area for over 30 years, so she has been our neighbor since we bought our house several years ago. She's in at least her 70s now. She is a nice lady, and we have always been friendly to one another. Her granddaughter went to school with our daughter for a few years. We have kept the easement below her property clean so weeds don't grow up there, etc. We say hello when we see one another out and chat when we have the time. I've taken over baked gooda or fresh fruit when I've found a really good deal and have more than I can use up. Well, about two years ago, I got a card in the mail from her (from next door!!). And I was astounded to realize when I read the card that she was upset and worried that she had done something to offend me. She was apologizing right and left and offering to pay us for helping keep her easement clean. I immediately went over to her house and told her I was simply flabbergasted. She has never said or done anything to offend any of us, and we consider her a wonderful neighbor and would never trade her. Turns out I had apparently ignored her or her "hellos" over the previous few weeks and she had thought I was offended by something. I apologized profusely and tried to explain that sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own head that I can walk out to my mailbox or come in from the yard or whatever and honestly not even see someone out in their yard or on the sidewalk or whatever, and that I was not conscious of having ignored her; it was not intentional. I also explained that since the time period she was talking about was winter, that could have a lot to do with it too. In the winter I quite often get the blues very badly and kind of go around in with a blank stare; I don't see people unless I am really making an effort to see and respond to them. We sat and talked for a half hour or more, hugged, and left mutually pleased with one another. You can bet that I went out of my way to notice if she was out in her yard anytime I ventured outside. One of my favorite things now is to be out hanging laundry on the line and have her come over to chat across the fence. She taught me a valuable lesson. I can be a reserved and private person, but I need to try to be self-aware, even on my bad days, that I'm not unintentionally hurting someone.