You are Not a Label!

An odd question brings us today’s word-of-the-week…


“What kind of quadriplegic are you?”

Seriously. Now I not only have to be labeled as a quad, but there are subcategories? I’m getting really tired of labels.

The guy’s sister just had a car accident and he was seeking information. Parents relayed a ton of stuff by phone and I was someone to talk to. I get it.

But I remember a few weeks after my injury. Docs told me I fell into certain categories, slapped labels on my chart, and pronounced sentence.

“You likely won’t live past age 50.” (I was 36 at the time, 27 years ago.)

“You’ll have limited physical independence.” (I taught full-time in a public school classroom for 21 years after my injury; I’ve handcycled nearly 35,000 miles.)

You get the idea. Labels chunk people into categories so we can make broad assumptions about the people in those categories.

Liberal. Conservative. Evangelical. Mainline. Gay. Protestant. Catholic. Black. White.


Each label conjures an image and a bunch of stereotypes that likely don’t describe most of the individuals in any of the groups.

Jesus didn’t do labels, because He saw individuals. He didn’t accept or reject anyone because of the group they came from or any other such silliness.

Think you’re immune from the labeling disease? I had coffee a while back with a friend who casually mentioned, as a tangent to our conversation, that we’d all be better off without Democrats. I chuckled and told him I was registered as a Democrat. His face fell. “I hope you’re joking.” Then he changed the subject.

Labels are lazy shortcuts. Once I know you’re “one of those” I can stereotype you. I don’t have to bother with the hard work of knowing you as a person.

I’m weary of labels. They’re too frequently about fear, bullying, and anger. They’re nearly always about divisiveness.

What kind of quadriplegic am I? I’m the kind who sits in a wheelchair and dreams God-sized dreams.

A challenge: Look for the labels you use to categorize people–or yourself.

It’s Monday! This would be a good week to see people rather than labels.

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Copyright 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
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