Spiritual leaders Richard Rohr and Eckhart Tolle tell us that much of our unhappiness comes from labels. We spend all day labelling those around us, and therefore judging. We also judge ourselves by creating labels for ourselves that we feel we must live up to or change. “Middle class”, “overweight”, “successful”, “#1 Dad”… Happiness, they say, can come when we drop our efforts to live up to those labels and expectations and instead just be ourselves. This is the difference between the True Self and the False Self.
Not Getting Caught up with Labels
My girlfriend and I recently got engaged. I’m not necessarily rushing to use the label “fiance” for myself or “fiancée” for her – Now there’s nothing wrong with such a title, unless it causes a couple to try and fit a mould of what they “think” an engaged couple “should be”—or what pop culture says they should be—rather than allowing themselves to be what they always have been: in love and in relationship. I was touched by a scene in Boston Med—a reality show a few years ago about the goings on in three Boston hospitals—where an elderly man was preparing to undergo surgery. His wife was by his side and she told the doctor to take good care of her boyfriend who she had been married to for 60 years. She still called him her boyfriend! Perhaps for them this captured the playful love that was still a part of their marriage so many decades later. While they may have called each other husband and wife, this scene showed that they didn’t necessarily get caught up with those labels. They just were what they had been from the beginning: boyfriend and girlfriend, in love, and best friends.
In Jesus’ time, the Jews expected an all powerful messiah with political power and royal glory. This is what messiah meant to them. Imagine if Jesus had lived up to those expectations! Instead the messiah label lost that high-horse meaning and became one of redemption, inclusion, and gentle love. Jesus was just being himself, nothing more.
What labels are you trying to live up to? “Ph.D.”, “famous blogger”, “good Catholic”, “perfect husband”… Are they realistic or ego-boosting? Are they pulling you away from the natural beauty that you really are?: imperfect, loving, and uniquely talented. Labels are okay in and of themselves as long as they don’t detract from just being you. Jesus never tried to fulfil certain labels cast upon him, nor did he place them upon himself. He just lived and loved. And so should you.
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Music by Kevin MacLeod