Labels. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Enduring loss, I should say multiple losses, has really made me feel so alone and isolated. Part of that is just a side affect of trauma and grief, but part of that is from reality. I have been abandoned by quite a few family and friends. I’ve also been labeled a lot of things I am not, mostly from people who don’t know my story, who don’t know my character, who would rather take the time to label me than to get to know my story. But going through these experiences has also really opened my eyes and makes me look at experiences and people in a whole new perspective.
When people are going through trying times the people around them tend to create distance. Few people are willing to get in the trenches of someone else’s problem. It’s so easy for us to label people….Negative Nancy, Debbie Downer, Sad Sally, anti-social, weird, a loner, the list goes on. These labels imply that their attitude somehow directly correlates to these hard experiences, or bad decisions, and completely negates their feelings. But the reality is that we cut and paste these labels onto people when they are going through things that make us uncomfortable or that we just don’t want to deal with, or they are making decisions that we don’t agree with. We pass judgement without even reaching out to help, without even knowing the complete story. It’s our way of making ourselves feel better. It allows us to distance ourselves without feeling guilty. It boosts our own ego, and gives us the excuses to forgive our inactions. ‘That person is too negative all the time….That person is depressed and needs to get over it….That person must be bad to have caused that to happen….That person is making the wrong decisions….’ By labeling these people it gives ourselves the freedom to walk away, to do nothing. We’re so afraid to meet people where they are, to get down in the trenches with them, that we oftentimes leave people when they need us the most.
The truth is these people aren’t broken. They are hurting. They may be lost and feel alone. Like no one understands them. Why would we feel that it’s ok to respond to hurt or loneliness or feeling misunderstood with judgement and inaction? Let’s just slap a label on them and move on. Think about how that would make you feel. During your darkest hour people meet you with silence. With judgement. With labeling you as a negative person or that you deserve what you’re going through. Or that you can handle it because you’re so strong. Just the thought of that makes my heart hurt. And if it doesn’t do the same to you I suggest that you please check your pulse…. We need to meet people with empathy. We need to educate ourselves so that we can attempt to understand what others are going through. We need to refrain from judgement, that’s not our responsibility after all. We have to be willing to reach out, even if we feel uncomfortable simply because we have the luxury of not having to think about what they are enduring. We can’t continue to allow people to hurt without reaching out and trying to help them see the light.
So the next time you feel the need to judge, or to label someone, or you know someone who is going through hard times just remember….
That woman who is always quiet who you like to call anti-social and weird and make fun of….maybe she has just endured her 4th pregnancy loss and she’s trying to cope with the reality that brings.
That boy who hasn’t been to church in a while who you feel needs to check his priorities and doesn’t take his faith seriously….maybe he is battling depression and is having a hard time.
That girl who always posts about her struggles that you’ve muted and dubbed ‘Negative Nancy’….maybe she’s been abandoned by her family and could really use a shoulder to cry on, someone to listen to her and not judge.
That man that who seems all tough that you think is kind-of a jerk….maybe he has endured so much trauma over the past few years and is trying everything to just keep it together for his family.
There are so many things that people deal with on a daily basis that we know nothing about. But yet we are so quick to judge and slap labels on them to make us feel better about ourselves. So the next time you feel like labeling someone based upon the way they are dealing with their experiences or the decisions they are making I hope you think twice. I hope that instead of judging that you reach out to that person. Ask them what you can do to help. Allow them to express their feelings without telling them how you think they should react. I hope that you take the time to educate yourself on how to help those that are going through hard times. I hope that you choose to love. And I pray there comes a day when suffering is met with empathy. From everyone, always.