Labels And Super Glue

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. [Galatians 5:1]

Is anything still enslaving you, even after Jesus sacrificed Himself to set you free?

This week we’ve talked about the labels we use to categorize others. We’ve looked at Labels And Averages and Labels as Excuses.

Today I’m thinking that labels have varying degrees of stickiness. Some come off easily, while some take a lifetime to scrape away.

Glue or Velcro?

Kids apply a lot of their own labels with Velcro. This year he wears shorts and a t-shirt every day, then over the summer he discovers girls and shows up next year with a bit more fashion consciousness. One day the hair’s blue and disheveled, the next it’s all neatly arranged. Labels like these are easily peeled away and replaced with something new.

Some labels aren’t so easily removed. During my second year of college I took an intermediate composition course. Almost everyone in the room was an English major, and some of them were amazing writers. I was a math major who thought I might like writing, but I’d always been pigeonholed as the math-science guy.

The graduate-assistant teacher didn’t want to bother with my unpolished writing, so he gushed over the work of those who already knew about writing. After a few classes he called me aside and asked what in the world I was doing in his class. I was too intimidated to tell him I came with the silly notion that he might help be become a better writer. So I mumbled something and sat quietly in the back for the rest of the term, certain that I just wasn’t cut out to be a good writer.

I only remember one detail from that class—the instructor insisted that we address him as “Charles,” because he intended to be a famous poet. I wonder what ol’ Charlie’s up to these days.

The labels applied by others can be tough to shed. But you can peel them away, and with time you even learn that nobody can attach a label without your permission. Others’ labels can be painful, but you don’t have to live by them.

Super Glue

But one kind of label comes with super glue. Once attached, only the most determined folks can remove this kind of label.

The worst, most difficult-to-remove labels are those we apply to ourselves.

Some know-it-all self-proclaimed-expert writing teacher named Charlie tells me I’ll never be a writer—that’s tough to shake. But once I internalize that message, tattoo on my heart that I’m just not a writer, that becomes a self defeating prophesy. Once I KNOW I can’t do it, I stop trying.


We all live in jails more confining than anything constructed of bricks and iron bars. The walls that limit our true freedom are built from I can’t, I’ll never be able to, and I’m no good at. The bars are formed from I’m a failure, I’m worthless, and I don’t matter. The door is fashioned from guilt and shame, and the lock consists of my own conclusion that I have no hope.

The prison we build for ourselves from our own labels stifles our dreams and squeezes our hearts until we struggle for enough air to simply survive. Disabled—oops, can’t go that way. Divorced—uh-oh, that door’s closed. GUILTY because of past mistakes—up goes another wall. And pretty soon I’m boxed in, trapped by my self-applied limiting labels.

And the enemy of my soul laughs, because he didn’t have to do anything except whisper in my ear until the lies became real enough to deny the freedom God intends.

In Luke 4, Jesus announces Himself as the One sent by God “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.” He wasn’t talking about worldly jails of brick and mortar.

God sent Jesus to dissolve the super glue and peel off the labels. He wants us to live without the restrictions of artificial categories that divide and confine. He wants that so much that His Son wasn’t too high a price to pay.

I am free. I encourage you to repeat that, out loud if possible.

You and I are not our labels and limitations. We’re not what others say we are, and we’re not what we think we are.

I want to strip away the self-applied labels and live in freedom. I only want one label attached to me: Jesus loves me.

What labels have you glued to your heart? How do they limit you?

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” [Luke 4:18-19]

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Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site

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