>Let’s Label

>In his 1991 book “Simple Faith”, theologian, author and church pastor, Charles R. Swindoll describes the game we all play with one another and calls it Let’s Label. Here’s how to play;

1- Find someone who is different from you. Preferably only in the most superficial of ways like appearance, that way you don’t actually have to get to know the person to decide how different they are.
2- Form a negative and critical opinion based only on the externals.
3- Jump to conclusions about what makes the person behave the way they do.
4- Stick on a label and freely share your findings with others.

The object of the game is simple, to separate those who are like us from those who are different and to build walls between “us and them”.

Playing Let’s Label is the beginning of Injustice and Oppression. As stated in previous entries here; Peace without justice is oppression. We cannot promote peace without justice and we cannot promote justice if we stick labels of exclusion or separation on each other.

The most obvious and least useful labels originate in our race or ethnicity. It’s easy to identify “us and them” from a distance when all you have to do is look at person. The world is and has always been divided along these kinds of lines, some more obvious than others. But as the world becomes more globalized and integrated it is these very lines that are being blurred. It’s this blurring of the lines that makes the game harder to play and upsets the most active players.

There are two divergent trends in the world today. One is the erasure of the ethnic and cultural lines in essence the removal of labels through globalization, the opening of markets and homogenization of culture in the name of economics. This approach ignores diversity and oppresses those who wish to maintain a connection to their ethnicity. The other is the redoubling of efforts at separation and isolation along these very same ethnic lines in order to protect a way of life. Similar to the cold war strategy of containment, proponents of this approach refuse to engage with those who are different thus breeding distrust.

We all carry labels. Most are impossible to erase. The task in promoting justice is not to homogenize and erase the labels. Nor is it to isolate one’s self from those who are different. The task is to understand the labels, both yours and those placed on others, wear the good ones proudly and seek to erase only those that are destructive.

After explain the game in some detail Swindoll goes on to look at how Jesus told his followers to approach it.

1″Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3″Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Matthew 7:1-5

We tear down the walls that divide by first recognizing what parts of the wall we ourselves have built. I realize I’m mixing my metaphors here but stay with me. When Jesus says to remove the plank from you own eye I believe he is also saying, take down your portion of the wall. It’s by taking the first step toward inclusion and understanding that we can begin to build up enough trust so that others are also willing to remove their walls and accept our help in doing so.

Understanding the labels and being honest about them is the first step toward inclusion and justice and therefore a requirement of peace.

Now, where did I leave my sledge-hammer?

Lauren Sheil (Male, White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, Canadian)


  1. >great post. It is important to be the first to start tearing down those walls. We can't wait for someone else to make the first move otherwise we may be waiting a long time.

  2. >As I see it, globalization in and of itself is neither good nor bad, but powerful people with self interest in mind have managed to use globalization in ways that harm a lot of us. From paying (almost) slave wages to pitting American workers against workers in near fatally-ill, poverty stricken nations. We cannot compete with the wages that those people will work for in order to keep from starving to death. If international companies would pay a decent living wage here and abroad maybe globalization would help us all, but on the ground it has not worked out that way. Global companies include ever larger, ever more powerful corporations, some of which are wealthier than certain small nations. Their annual profit is greater than the gross national income of some nations. Now, how are workers supposed to negotiate fair conditions at the bargaining tables with such outrageously unfair employers. The bottom line is, no competition in the labor market so far as companies go, an no jobs for Americans so far as that goes. Big, global comnpanies are writing the scripts for us. Paint it any glowing color you want, it's nasty.

  3. >Hi Lauren, I do enjoy your thought provoking posts. This one reminds me of my own experiences of labelling. The first one is the label I had for single parents, until I became one! I struggled for quite sometime with this label. I had this perception that single parents were from a particular group in which I didn't fit. I also found people I met also plonked me into this group much to my distress.The second label I had was attached to Australia's first peoples. Until I worked with the Tasmanian Aboriginal community I never thought much about the label I had. After four years of working with the community obviously my perceptions changed and my understanding of what they have always been fighting for deepened.You make a very good point. Thank you

  4. >Well I certainly didn't intend to open a debate on Globalization. It's an interesting topic and one that I would like to explore at another time though.

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