At times, I find labels useful, and other times I am annoyed with them. For instance, years ago when I was the director of a preschool, I was contacted by the local school Multidisciplinary Team about an incoming student who needed special services. As useful as it was to be working with a team, I found some of our staff had difficulty trying to identify the child first as a child instead of as a “Special Needs” child. Our motto was ‘Sharing a Little of God’s Love’ and we each believed it with all our heart. We believed we were in each child’s life to share God’s love with them. It challenged us to work outside of the label and trust there was a plan bigger than we could see.
Religious labels are another example of labels that can be good or get annoying. For instance, I was born and raised in the Christian tradition. I embraced the teachings and lived my life to the best of my ability by the principles of Christianity. Over the past couple of decades, I have found it increasingly difficult to identify with that particular label. I continue to follow Christ’s teachings, but the label of Christianity carries with it a vast array of beliefs from conservative to liberal, such that I’m not comfortable associating with that label any more.
Throughout these years of discovering and owning my authenticity, I have left behind many labels that once formed my identity. In 2015 and again in 2018, I attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions gathering. This conference consists of thousands of people from around the world representing hundreds of different religions. In this five-day conference, representatives of all of the world’s religions gather in one place uniting in service to the same God in their various ways. Talk about a kaleidoscope! Whether addressing human trafficking, climate change, war/violence and hate, income inequality, or challenges of indigenous communities, people gathered without any labels other than a common interest in making the world a better place.
This is true with another group I have been introduced to, Idealists of the World. This is a global social media group made up of over 40,000 people from around the world. We unite online to support one another as we strive to improve our communities and look for connections for how to implement improvements. Idealists’ motto is “Bridging the gap between intention and action.”
One fall morning, prior to attending the 2018 Parliament, I kept hearing the words, “Let there be peace on earth. Let it begin with me” in my mind. I’m fairly certain it was a song I heard as there was a melody playing as well. I was pondering the necessity of labels. Should I be identifying with one group or another? If asked, what label would I give myself? While preparing to meditate, the essence Niaouli begged to be present. I asked Niaouli, “What do you have to share with me about this idea of labels?” The following is the message I received:
My gentle Earth-loving child, there is no need to identify yourself with any one particular sect or religion. You are a child of God, a child of the Creator of all things. Each time you assist a worm or teach others to love their “Wormy,” you are expressing who you are. With each innocent creature you admire or help (like the goldfinch and butterfly) you are expressing who you are. Each time you offer to share what you’ve learned with those around you, you are expressing who you are. Love life and live your life to the fullest, and you are expressing who you are. Bless you, Earth Being!
I never thought about my common, everyday activities defining who I am. My grandchildren and I love playing in the dirt and finding worms. In her cute two-year-old voice, Ellie named her worm “Woomy”. It came naturally for me to gently move the distraught goldfinch who had encountered a glass door and to send healing energy to a butterfly who seemed out of sorts. This beautiful message from nature was a wonderful reminder to simply love life to the fullest. No labels necessary.
Perhaps there are labels in your life that no longer serve a purpose. Are you ready to release them? Are you willing to release them?
If you were going to authentically identify yourself, what words would you choose?