Labels are for Jars, Not People

RitLab - Pickling!
RitLab – Pickling! (Photo credit: Contemporary Jewish Museum)

My first job after college was working with people with developmental disabilities. One lesson I learned was the words we use to describe people do matter. Words have the power to hurt. But the good news is that words also have the power to heal and empower.

Working with people with different abilities led me to a strong dislike of labels. Labels were developed as communication tools and if we could see them as just that there wouldn’t be a problem. The problem is when strong (often negative) emotion becomes attached to labels. So we change the labels, but changing words does not change attitudes.

The damage from labels comes when we apply them to ourselves or others and believe them. When we believe anyone is “less than” other people due to any of the qualities that make us unique we are doing harm to ourselves and others.

When we change the words we also must change our thoughts, which change our beliefs, which in turn change our lives. Remember, labels are for jars, not people.

4 thoughts on “Labels are for Jars, Not People”

  1. I agree totally and still everyone does still label people. We need to take every person as they are, and everyone is different and has different gifts!

  2. And I’ve always found it best to change perspective. If something that catches my attention feels negative, then I look for the positive (even just a speck) and let it grow. Whatever brief negativity was there disappears from my awareness.

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