Labels

My eighth grade nun told us that, “there is a place for everything and everything in its place.”  We can do that with people as well.  We love and need to categorize and label people so that we can place them somewhere in our compartmentalized brain.  That way, we can relate and deal with them in a necessary fashion.  Convenient, yes.  True, hardly.

This past week I met people who each told me that they were OCD, PSTD, an alcoholic and a lesbian.  (I live a rich life!) Thank God for acronyms, or I would not be able to keep these people straight.  Not only have their lives been reduced to a condition, disease or a social unknown but we’ve created letters to describe them to help us keep it simple.  (Simple is what counts, doesn’t it?  It also helps for insurance billing purposes.)

To shrink someone to a disease has got to be the worst condition human condition, both for us and for the bearer of it.  The one person freely told me at lunch that he was OCD as though it was a reward rather than a mental condition.  I have always suspected that labels dismiss responsibilities for both the hearer and the bearer.  Upon hearing a label, our minds immediately to our past experiences, newspaper articles or stories that we have heard.  Once that label hits our ears it is never removed from our brains.

Try telling one of these people that they are “persons” and you will be lifted up back to your planet.  At parties, I often hear priests brag about their Enneagram numbers as though it’s the blood in their veins or Meyer/Briggs letters that has been so abused it has no meaning any longer.  A priest friend married and left the priesthood long ago and his in-laws still call him “Father.”  Go figure.

Why do we have such a difficult relating to people without diminishing their worth or reducing their  person hood.  The early Church Fathers struggled until their reached three persons in One God, each with its own identity and each connected to the other.

Divorced or left-handed, can we do any less?

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About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. He is associate pastor of partnering parishes, Christ King and St. Bernard parishes in Wauwatosa, WI.
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