I report today with sadness, that a man walked into a church this week, shot and killed two people and wounded physically and emotionally, countless others. He blames his actions on his frustration with the beliefs of others based on the labels and groupings they were given. We use all sorts of labels to sort people into groups. Words like liberal, conservative, socialite, heathen, degenerate, good, bad, right, wrong, and reprobate are all words that stop us from seeing what is alive in others and ourselves. Such labels disconnect us from seeing the human qualities in others because we are too busy seeing into what label category they will fall. Rather than seeing the human beauty of any person, we see their label and carry with us the preconceived notions of what that label means to us. We have assumed more about the person based on the label given to them, than we have taken the time to connect and find out in truth. Such labels are great and telling people what we think they “are” but do little to meet anyone’s needs or bring anything alive in them, out of them.
Often these labels we put on people become prophecies. We label our children as “difficult learners” and what do you know? They become that. We call some people “under-achievers” and they become the label given. No point in proving the label wrong is there? Why would any child want to become more when we started off calling them “learning disabled.” Essentially, we have pre-programed the child to believe about themselves that they cannot learn.
We do the same sort of stuff in this thing labeled the “culture war.” In most of my dealings with those on the opposing side of this culture war, I am referred to by a variety of names. None of which really has anything to do with me, but more to do with what other people (mainly those calling me these names) “THINK” of me. I am learning that telling people what we “think” of them does little to meet anyone’s needs. It doesn’t tell us what they are needing and it doesn’t tell them what we are needing. So what does it do? It morally judges them. That is it. Labels are just a way of morally judging others.
It goes both ways too! We can say that so and so was a good man, but all we are going it saying what we think he was. We made another moral judgment of this person. We can say that little Johnny is a “well-behaved boy” but telling him what we think he is does little to meet his needs as a human.
Clinical psychologist, Marshall Rosenberg, PhD, notes that every behavior we have, everything we do is in service of meeting our needs. Regardless what they need is, every action we take is to meet a need. He also notes that every feeling we have is caused by our needs being met or not met. We are happy when our needs are met and we are unhappy when our needs are not met. Once we discover this, a beautiful world opens up. We can suddenly ask ourselves what need is being met by our actions. What feeling are we having and what has been met or not met to cause this feeling.
When we realize that our feelings are caused by our needs being met or not met, we also realize that other people are never the cause of our feelings. No one “made us” feel the way we do. We own and can take responsibility for our own feelings. If I am feeling sad and needing connection with others, it is my need that makes me sad not that others are bad people who don’t love me. If I am feeling energized by reading a book I like, it isn’t the book that made me happy. It is my need to learn being met. I could gain the same feeling by reading a different book that again meets my need to learn.
If we shift the world away from these labels we put on people and shifted towards seeing people’s feelings and needs, then we can start connecting with others. Seeing them as humans not “things.” It is easier to see someone as a person, not a liberal or conservative. It is easier to see someone as a human not a reprobate or a saved christian. We see people for “who” they are rather than “what” they are and with that we see the beauty that makes us human. It also means we would have people whose needs are met. People’s whose needs are met don’t tend to go around shooting people.
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"Be the change you wish to see in the world"
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"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Martin Luther King Jr.
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