By Another Name by Lois Hewitt

We have all experienced words spoken in hushed tones, as if not saying them too loud is somehow better…

She is such a slut.

So sad that’s he’s a junkie. Or she is such a lush.

She’s just a _______ (fill in the blank)..woman, secretary, mom, housewife…what could she know?

He’s a Christian, you know how they are.

She is such a bitch!

I hear he is gay!

She lives over there, she can’t be any good.

Some of these things have been said about me, some even worse. You have heard a few yourself, I am sure.

Labels. In this enlightened age, we still rely on putting labels on people.

I have done it many times myself. The older I get the more useless labels become. I could be wrong but I think labels make us feel better about ourselves. I may be this but, at least, I’m not THAT!

Self-worth, or lack of, is the keeper of labels. When you look in the mirror and hate what you see, you desperately try to find something to feel better about…usually by way of another person. It’s so easy to pass judgement and place a label on someone. You may feel better for a moment, but it doesn’t last. Then you need another fix. Soon it is hard not to talk about someone else.

Some labels are accurate and can be a good thing. They are brilliant, a great artist, an amazing chef and the like. But even those labels do not embody the entire person. Humans have the ability to have multiple layers and intricacies. Humans are seldom entirely the make up of one label.

When you look at a person and only see one label, you are missing the big picture. Our behaviors stem from our experiences. What happens to us or by our own hands, are the things that shape us.

I’m reading a lot about addiction. I used to think one way about it. I passed judgement about it, especially since I was hiding my own addictions. I saw just an addict and that is all I saw. Now I know that there is more to the story but also there is more to the person.

Sometimes in life things happen and they forever change your course. Your brain rewires itself to help you cope. Those experiences cast a hue over everything that comes after. Many times pain or loss are involved and feeling better is all you can think about. But that does not negate the other aspects of your life.

You may be hurting but you still help a homeless person or you paint a beautiful picture or write an inspirational song or take a dramatic photograph or any number of things. That’s why labels are so damaging. They usually focus on the bad with no regard to the good.

I do not allow myself to use labels anymore. I still do but I am fighting the urge. Seeing a person’s entirety is now more important to me than what someone else thinks of me. Once I stopped caring about what “they” think of me, the less important labels became. I used to label myself and quite honestly those were the worst labels I can think of. And I used labels on others to feel better. No more.

I see it everyday in life now. People are so angry and upset. It becomes more difficult to care about others because your pain and fear are so great. As labels are placed on others so is does the fact that it is now easier to discount that person. They become a non-entity. Cast them aside. When we do, we lose a small bit of our humanity and pretty soon there is not much left.

The words and labels that are written behind the security of a computer screen are devastating. The things we say to each other, to people we have never met. It’s heartbreaking. As in an abuse situation, after a while you start to believe those words.

Labels are angry words said with the intent of causing harm. It’s easy to think they are harmless, especially the ones we speak in hushed tones. But those labels have the ability to manifest themselves into a horrible, never-ending scenarios. Telling someone that they are only one thing opens the door to making that a reality. Tell an alcoholic that’s all they will ever be and many times that is the reality that becomes truth.

I am, personally, going to try to give up placing labels on others as I heal myself from those placed on me. I, truthfully, have lost some of my humanity over the years. The words said to me hurt as did the ones I spoke. Words cannot be taken back that’s why we all need to talk less and listen more. That girl everyone calls loose has a story as does the man who who drinks everyday.

No more labels. No more judgements. No more harsh words said in anger. My self worth is no longer contingent on someone else. I do not know if this will make any impact at all in life as a whole but I’m going to try.

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