On Labels and Boxes
It's Wednesday, which means we've got another post for you on how to thrive and not just survive, at school or wherever you are placed this year! We kicked off last week with Lydia's post on clothes and style, and today Hannah writes for us on how we can move away from being put in a box, or simply being labelled as the 'funny one' / 'clever one' / 'loud one' at school. Praying for a week of surviving and thriving! MP Team x
Remember the canteen scene in Mean Girls? Everyone is separated into cliques. To name a few, there are the Asian Nerds, Varsity Jocks, Desperate Wannabes, Band Geeks, and The Plastics. (I’ve done my research!). People are labelled based on their hobbies, talents or characteristics, and fitted into certain boxes (in this case canteen tables) where their identity lies.
OK, this example is obviously a lot more extreme than most of our experiences of labelling; we might have labels such as 'sporty', 'musical', 'loud', 'quiet' or 'clever'. But the point I’m trying to make is that so often our identity becomes based on one of our characteristics or talents.
I think that Mean Girls is a good example of how often we are placed in a box which defines us as a person to the people around us. Some of us naturally have an amazing talent, or an admirable (or sometimes not so admirable) characteristic which others automatically judge us on, and that becomes a label of our identity.
However, living with our identity rooted in our chosen sport, instrument or passion is not how God tells us to live, and as Timothy Keller puts it, ‘if anything becomes more fundamental than God in your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol’.
I would highly recommend Sophie De Witt’s book ‘Compared To Her…’ on this difficult topic of where our identity lies and how to tackle idols. Sophie talks about how we are rarely satisfied with our own qualities, and how we compare ourselves with others and therefore look up or down on them, based on how their ‘idol measure’ compares with ours. We are trapped in what Sophie calls ‘Compulsive Comparison Syndrome’ - and labelling is normally a result of our own insecurities.
2 Corinthians 10:12 tells us that ‘when people measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding or wisdom’. Measuring ourselves against others is a direct result of taking God's place at the centre of our lives and looking for blessings in things that are not our Creator.
We are reminded of God’s influence in our lives in Ephesians 2:4-10:
FOR IT IS BY GRACE YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED, THROUGH FAITH- AND THIS IS NOT FROM YOURSELVES, IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD- NOT BY WORKS, SO THAT NO ONE CAN BOAST.
FOR WE ARE GOD’S HANDIWORK, CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS TO DO GOOD WORKS, WHICH GOD PREPARED IN ADVANCE FOR US TO DO. (EPHESIANS 2:4-10)
We must remember that all our gifts and talents come from God, and we should therefore act to use these gifts and talent to tell others about Jesus Christ our Saviour, being distinctive in how we approach labelling and being labelled at school.
We can use our music practice, confidence, popularity or sports talents for God’s glory by keeping Jesus at the centre of our lives, and trusting that God gives us unique gifts to use and to share. Whether we're the 'quiet one' or the 'arty one', we all have the opportunity to live life to the full, asking God how He wants to use us in the place we are in, with the talents and skills we have.
School is a very difficult time with so many changes and struggles; but by trying to focus our life more on Jesus than our own desires and idols, we can share God’s glory and amazing promises to us with others.
Hannah is from Tunbridge Wells and in her first year studying Accounting, Business Finance and Management at the University of York. Her favourite things are tea and cake, wandering around in the countryside, galloping down Millennium Bridge, and chatting a lot (especially about JC)!