We think we need labels

We think we need labels

I like labels. I like to know when I go to the grocery store which food products have added sugar in them. Also, when I go to a movie, I like to see the label above the theatre door, telling me which movie I am about to see. It’s important for my 6-year-old to be label as a 1st grader as she walks into her elementary school so that she knows [as does everyone else] that she belongs in the 1st grade class, not the 3rd grade class. Labels help us articulate and they help us communicate… until they don’t.

Labels break down too

But for me, labels begin to break down from here. The very thing that helps us [no added sugar] can become the very thing that hinders us. I am a democrat, therefore this is how you should associate with me. I am a millennial, therefore this is my work ethic. I am Hispanic, therefore this is how my culture says I relate to the world around me. I am gay, so now you know everything about me. I own a small business, therefore this is what I care about. I am Christian, therefore you now know my worldview. I am homeless, therefore this is my perspective.

People without labels

What if our world actually didn’t have labels? How would we know anything about anyone else? What would it take to experience another person? Another culture? Wouldn’t we have to go and experience them for ourselves? What a refreshing way to go about life. Because in a world of labels, there is no curiosity, everything is already “known.” But, when there are no labels, we have no expectations of another human. There is no grid for what an individual may be like. What they love, what they hate, what they think is pretty cool.

Creativity without labels

If we need labels for everything then we will never build anything truly unique, as we will always be confined by the rules and expectations of our label. But, what if we spend less time defining and more time creating? What if we stop worrying about how others perceive us [or how they will categorize us] and we just work to build and create what is in our heart to create?

We think we need labels, but…

I think there is so much room to move and reach and stretch and create and relate and love. If only we would give ourselves the chance to not already know it all. All the ways people are. All the ways things can be. All the ways we can engage with the world around us. Perhaps there’s still hope to remove labels, to remove expectation, and simply experience and create from the innocent place of curiosity and discovery.

Just working out some thoughts. Would love to hear yours if you have a moment.

Thanks for journeying alongside,
Phil Rice


PS. Oh yeah, and if you resonate with this article, consider joining the conversation more regularly!

I send out a super helpful [I think it’s helpful] short email with [5] highlights of content over the last month [or so], my 5-things email — meaningful content for the religiously disillusioned [or spiritually tired] seeking to practically and authentically follow Jesus in real life.


Phil writes like he speaks – with a God-centered, challenging, winsome humility. He gives permission to reflect on the edge about what it means to be the Church. — Lance H.