So what I am talking about today is labels…I hate labels. Labels do nothing but put people in groups. Groups always define people inaccurately, and that leads to division; it drives a wedge between human beings who might otherwise get along fine.
The label example I am using today is the label of “Millennial”. The term Millennial is given to the generation who is roughly between 18 and 34 years of age. It is a label that comes complete with it’s own set of negative stereotypes and prejudices.
Because there is a name for this group, and for no other reason, people assume that all people who are in this age bracket are essentially worthless, lazy people living off their parents, spending all their free time playing video games and feeling like the world owes them something. This assumption is profoundly inaccurate.
I know many, many people who are technically millennials, and I can tell you they do not fit these stereotypes at all. They are hard working, dedicated, forward thinking, engaged individuals, and many of them are now parents themselves.
That is why I hate labels; whenever you paint any group of people with a single brush…you are going to be incorrect.
When I was young people thought everyone in my generation was doing drugs and listening to rock music. The young people in the 60’s were assumed to all be hippies into indiscriminate sex and psychedelic drugs, and having no jobs.
Of course some so called millennials fit the stereotype, as did some people in my generation, and in the 60’s, but there were many individuals who did not. That is why I am against labels in general…because of their inherent inaccuracy.
One of my friends is named Will, he is the most dynamic young man I have ever met…he is going to be a civil engineer, he is more together than most older people I know and yet…he is a millennial. So every time I hear that label used in a derogatory fashion I take offense to it, because it makes me think of my friend Will. I know he is being judged along with everyone else in the group simply because he happened to be born at a certain time in history, and its wrong.
There are many, many other labels in wide use today; republicans, democrats, conservatives, liberals, black, white, young, old, terrorist, muslim, christian, atheist, on and on it goes. I submit to you that each one of these labels, in the way they are used…are inaccurate. Because labels do not take into account the individuals within this artificially named group.
If someone says “all conservatives this,” Or “all liberals that,” they will be incorrect. That’s a big deal to me personally…because words mean things. If the word ‘some’ replaced the word ‘all’, it would be much closer to an accurate statement.
You listening right now fall into a label of some kind, maybe two or three or more. Even the word “Man” is a label, if it is used to describe the behavior of everyone who is male.
Do you like the idea of being assumed to have a particular quality or behavior by people who don’t know you…just because you fall under that broad label? I don’t, I don’t like it at all.
It is a very human thing to do. Labeling groups of people comes very natural to us. I understand that…but that doesn’t make it right. Imagine a world where there were no labels, where everyone was judged according to their merit as a human, including you.
I realize that is a lofty goal, and I don’t expect all of humanity to suddenly start doing this…but, you could do it. You could become aware of labels, and dismiss their generality. Maybe start taking people at face value, on their own merit.
You might be wondering what the benefit of doing that would be, well here is what I think. I think it will open up a lot of new doors for you. You might have great conversations with people who you otherwise, would not have. Or you might learn new things. You may encounter other humans that you could inspire, and who might inspire you. That is just a few examples, but every one of these examples have the potential of helping you become a better man.
I am going to practice what I preach. There is a label that I have had a prejudice toward for some time, and that label is “Homeless”, homeless men in particular. Because of this label, in my mind I have painted the entire group as people who exists solely on the efforts of others, because they have no sense of dignity or self, they are lazy, drug addled pointless individuals. Guess what? I am being inaccurate.
I don’t know these people, I don’t know their individual stories or what led them to this place in life. I’m sure some of them fit my stereotype…but what about the ones who don’t? It’s not right of me to judge them along with the others, without knowing. So, starting today I’m going to change that, because I believe it will make me a better man than I was yesterday.
One way I’m going to do that, is by dropping the word “homeless” from my vocabulary, because it’s a label that has a negative meaning attached, and while it may be technically descriptive.when it is used to define an entire group of people, it is inaccurate…Instead I’m going to regard them as nothing but men, until I get to know them well enough to make a character assessment based on their merit.
So that is what was on my mind today. Look around in your world and start identifying labels that are inaccurate, and make a decision to stop using them. We can’t be responsible for the rest of the world…but we are definitely, 100% responsible for ourselves. That’s one reason we are better men today, than we were yesterday.
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