A Label, By Any Other Name

One day during a planning meeting, someone appreciated my organizational skills and said, “My Virgo feels so much better now.”  Then they asked about several future activities.  I said we’d get to those in a few months, after we completed other steps.  They exhaled and checked something off their to-do list.

Later, as I reviewed my notes, I wanted to ask, “What comforts your Virgo?”  I imagined how stifled they might feel within the stereotype of detail-oriented Virgo.  I also wondered whether their Virgo labelled other colleagues or me, if that Virgo perspective is the only one they hold. 

Even as we can be almost anything, live nearly anywhere, and learn about any culture in one swipe, many of us still live according to labels designated to separate and diminish us, rather than connect and empower us.  Sometimes we keep ourselves in these labelled boxes, perhaps because someone told us that’s where we fit — and we never questioned it. 

Consider some of the labels:

Black, Tan, White, Yellow

Agnostic, Buddhist, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Sikh

Bi, Gay, Lesbian, Queer, Straight, Trans

Destitute, Poor, Privileged, Rich

Educated, Uneducated

Aquarius, Gemini, Leo, Scorpio

Enneagram: 4, 3, 2, 1

Communist, Democrat, Libertarian, Progressive, Republican, Socialist

Artist, Chef, Criminal, Entrepreneur, Teacher, Unemployed, Veteran

Cousin, Dad, Mom, Sister, Uncle

Carnivore, Vegetarian

Fat, Short, Tall, Thin

Athlete, Couch-Potato

Homebody, Traveler

Loser, Winner

Sometimes we classify one another, like specimens in petri dishes, saying, “They’re this way because they’re an ‘Introverted, Radical, Vegan, Architect.’”  Then we imagine we know their whole story.  We may spend tons of money and time assessing ourselves and others based on classifications which can become self-fulfilling prophecies.  We may struggle within those labels to meet some standard, trying on other labels for size, like new clothes, to see whether they suit us better.

Often, institutions put us through the demoralizing process of labelling to determine our rank, credit score, and net worth, as well as our aptitude to enter a specific school, live in a particular neighborhood, or drive a certain car.  We’re evaluated with algorithms and metrics to determine what kind of risk we might be to their security and how we conform to societal ideals. 

And among all those labels, we forget the only important one: Beloved Creation of God (or whichever name we use for God), Beloved Creator of all things.  Being one of God’s Beloved Creations means we’re divine just as we are — and so is everyone else.  That divinity, indwelling in each of us, is expansive.  It allows us to rise beyond the limitations of all other labels.

As soon as we begin discarding labels, we grow in spiritual maturity.  No matter what we’ve believed about ourselves before or which paths we’ve traveled already, we feel free to embrace both the depth of our divinity and the strength of our humanity.  We live from a greater sense of compassion, understanding that everyone experiences pain and loss, as much as joy and success.  And, as we know the divine within us, we know it in all others, too.

© 2019 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

Another Path Ahead

Journeys often begin the same way.  We decide to leave town, take a trip, explore a new venue, or revisit a favorite destination.  Sometimes we imagine the geographic cure, believing that once the past is out of sight, it also will be out of mind.  Then we expect paths filled with only rainbows and sunshine.

Sometimes we fuel ourselves with mantras such as: “Let a smile be your umbrella.”  Or “It’s easier to change your direction than it is to change your attitude.” Or “The journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step.”  We may try to affirm our heart’s desires, using magical thinking to will away the past, or spiritual bypassing to pretend that we haven’t failed several times, or hit a bottom no one witnessed anywhere on social media.

When we begin journeys believing that a “cosmic eraser” will eliminate the past — the bankruptcy, break-up, death, debt, disaster, divorce, estrangement, harm, hurt, illness, job loss, storm — we forget our sacred worth and our innate power to move forward.  If we strive for fulfillment which comes without failure, then we never feel happy or content.  If we see the destination as the ultimate reward, we’re disappointed the moment we arrive. 

Then, we’re off again, still led by burdens of blame, shame, guilt, pain, and sorrow we wear like armor.  Pretending that we don’t feel angry, confused, disillusioned, exhausted, frightened, frustrated, or heartbroken, delays the profound healing we can realize when we grieve our losses, remembering that they are as much a part of life as the celebrations.

It’s also why the geographic cure works only when we remember what we always carry:

  • Divinity: the essence and presence of God within each of us, no matter who we are, where we live, what we do, how we look, or who we love.  Our divinity reminds us that we’re spiritual beings, living a human experience, and so is everyone else.
  • Faith: the infinite, inner reserve which includes belief, hope, and trust.  We can reactivate our faith with daily contemplation, meditation, prayer, and reflection, especially in times of silence and solitude. 
  • Patience: an aspect of spiritual strength, which trusts in God’s calendar before our personal to-do list, especially as we notice that all things grow, bloom, and die in their own sacred time.
  • Compassion: born when love and wisdom unite, to unlock our hearts and open our minds, first to ourselves, then to others.
  • Courage: from the Latin cor, meaning heart, allowing us to follow our heart as we let the past fertilize and fuel a better life now, and in the future.

The journeys we travel separately and collectively, as citizens of the world, invite us to move beyond our past and our pain, not only for our own well-being, but for all others, too.  And as we grow in spiritual maturity, we’re free to take the best of ourselves wherever we go.

© 2019 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.