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[ Opinion ]

Don’t Be Defined By Your Label


Whose life matters anyway?

Bombarded with media at every angle leaves me scratching my head. I think we all agree that life matters. But which one matters more than the others? Which cause has more merit? Whose life matters anyway? This led me to think in-depth about my own. The only life that I can control is my own. The only actions that I am responsible for are my own. The only purpose I can fulfill is mine. I cannot stand behind a cause, apply labels, and jump on the bandwagon of a popular opinion to change the world. I must take responsibility for me. I must strive to change all that is wrong in me. So that I can see past the labels and really live a life that matters. A life that can truly affect change in a world that desperately needs it.

We live in a world filled with labels. We have had to check boxes on forms since we were first enrolled in school. Labeled by sex, race, religion, and a multitude of diagnosed disabilities. So many labels, most given with good intentions, have only managed to divide us and provide us all an excuse. It allows us to shred responsibility for our progress. It gives us someone or something else to blame for not having the life that we would like to have. We compare all the labels. We feel an injustice when one gets something the other does not. We must drop the labels.

….an easy way to pass the buck.

We all have a heritage. We possess cultural and physical traits that make us who we are. We celebrate them and embrace them. They should be stepping-stones to make us better and stronger. But when we turn to a plethora of labels they have only become an armor of excuses. They have become an easy way to pass the buck. I cannot make it in school because I have a condition. I cannot make it further in life because of my race. Or they allow us to show prejudice because if they carry a label then they must be a certain way, right? Allowing us to be free of our responsibility in how we act and treat others who have cultural or physical differences. Once again, we must drop the labels.

As a teacher I have begun to notice this in our classrooms. Just about everyone has some sort of label. ADHD, ADD, ELL, SPED, reading levels, test scores, to go along with gender, race, and socio-economic status. It is a data delusion. The students, labeled in hopes of helping them succeed, have bought into the labels as an excuse to remove their own responsibility in learning. I have also noticed that it allows us, as teachers, an excuse from our responsibility to teach because the labels have made them unteachable or low-achieving. Without intent and without us even being aware I believe it has become a cycle that limits success. When we are not responsible for ourselves it becomes easy to pass the buck when life does not unfold in the grandiose way we expected it to.

“OUR LIFE MATTERS”

It is the same in every institution that you take the time to investigate. Our churches, our neighborhoods, our workplaces and it takes roots in our hearts and blinds us with only the ability to see labels. It becomes a feeding frenzy with the instant bombardment of media and social media networks. A frenzy that would make the greatest shark week episode look tame. This life matters, that life matters, and everyone else is to blame for my life not being what I want it to be. We have grown so accustomed to our labels that we cannot see past them. We cannot see that where it starts is with the fact that “OUR LIFE MATTERS” and it is my responsibility to make it so.

I was one of “those people”.

As an alcoholic, my addiction stripped away all labels that had attached themselves to me and left me with just one. My name is Kip, I am an alcoholic. That was the only label left for me in rehab. I went in thinking to see “addicts”, you know those dirty, poor, homeless street urchins. I was terrified to be in a place to get well with “those people”. Labels once again proving that I lacked the responsibility for my own life. I was one of “those people”. However, “those people”, turned out to be CEO’s, executives, horse breeders, housewives, fry cooks, young students, and yes even teachers and a principal. We were all the same irregardless of our outside labels and level of prestige. We were all just addicts. We embraced each other since addiction had so brutally stripped us of all labels and division. In that sense it was the least divided and truly free place I had ever been.

Be the change….

Through the grace of God, in my recovery I have been allowed to see past the labels. I was forced by alcohol to take responsibility for my own life or die. By doing so, I only needed to change who I saw in the mirror. It was the path to a better life and the only way to affect change in the ones I loved and those around me. I began to focus only on what I could control and what I could change. It seemed selfish at first but the more I practiced it the more I learned it was the most unselfish thing I could do. It has allowed me to see people, things, and situations for who or what they are. To be accepting, tolerant, and to show love. That led me to my purpose. Living a life that matters, a life on purpose, lets me focus all my energy into helping others. I do not hide behind a label or cause, just live openly in my purpose. I realized that the changes I wanted to see in the world were the changes I had to make in myself.

Change starts from within each of us. Not in a cause, a popular opinion, or labels. Taking responsibility for our own lives, no matter our circumstances, gives us freedom from our labels and our excuses. It frees us to truly become all that we are meant to be. It gives us the opportunity to make our life matter. When we are living a life that matters we can see past the labels. Not all labels are bad, some necessary, but when our entire lives are categorized by label after label we lose sight of how to positively affect change. I am not to judge on whose lives matter. Standing up for injustice to make our world a better place is honorable. But until we can all look at our own life, and start there, the labels will continue to divide and conquer.

My challenge to you is to see past the labels. Do not see gender, race, religion, but see a fellow human being. Continuing to label only divides. Dividing brings hate. To overcome our differences it starts with us. Love yourself and love others. If you want true change it begins in you and then has a ripple effect in those around you. Blasting social media with all of our meme’s, status updates, and tweets that label only fuels the fire of discontent. Change what you can and what you can change is you! Let’s take responsibility for our own lives. Be the best human beings that we can. Affect positive change in those around us. All lives matter, black lives matter, blue lives matter, and one is not more important than the other. But hopefully we really make lasting change in our world, our children’s world and we can begin by………….

dropping the labels – life matter

Warriors on Purpose – kipshubert.com


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