Labels: Apply With Care

Years ago some friends of ours got married and went away on their honeymoon. While they were gone, a group of their friends decided to play a prank on them by removing the labels on all of the canned goods in their pantry. For months afterward, the newlyweds played a guessing game when it was time to cook dinner!

Labels can be helpful and even necessary when it comes to the pantry, garage, office and attic. But when it comes to people, not so much.

It has been said that rather than people not living up to their potential, they are living up to their labels.

Think about it. What labels did you receive in childhood? College? Early marriage?

Are your labels words like smart, hardworking, pretty, organized? Or are they words like dumb, lazy, ugly, rebellious, worthless?

What labels do you give others, especially those closest to you? Introducing your child as your problem child or saying he’s in the terrible two’s is applying that label in his mind and letting it sink into his heart.

We believe what we hear and think, then act accordingly.

We treat others in the way that we’ve been thinking about them, even if we never come out and say the words.

Have you been aggravated lately with your husband or a certain child? What labels have you been giving them with your thoughts and words?

We even label ourselves without realizing it. We speak and think about ourselves according to a medical condition or perhaps a skill level we had years ago. Then we proceed to feel and act in a way that matches the label.

If you’re going to attach labels to anyone (including yourself), make them good and positive and helpful. Whenever you think and speak well of others, it lifts you up, too.

Be the person who goes around putting life-giving, goal-setting, encouraging, future-speaking labels on others. Apply those labels with love and pray that they stick.


  1. I agree completely, Charlotte! I can’t stand it when people call children “little demons” or “hellions” or other such things. Were my children busy and challenging and adventurous? You bet! But I chose to give them live giving labels instead and today they are indeed godly, loving, Christ followers. They are still busy, adventurous and challenging, but in a way that keeps them close to the Father.

  2. Thank you for this post – it came at a time I needed to read it. I need to change the labels I give to my challenging 5yo daughter, and to myself. At church yesterday I was very hurt by 2 ladies there showing some barely veiled contempt towards me in a trial I was in, rather than giving me the encouraging pat on the back that I had hoped for, but later I realized that I have unwittingly caused their attitudes my still mentally applying the label towards myself of “not good enough” that I’ve heard most of my life (mom, ex-husband, and ex-mother-in-law). It was a wake-up call, both for how I think and how I speak.
    Suzy – I’m going to remember that my daughter is “busy, challenging, and adventurous”! Thanks.

  3. A wonderful reminder for this new year–the way we speak of others is often overheard by the unintended audience–and it shapes their thoughts, too. Wise words from Psalm 19:14- “Let the words of my mouth, and this meditation of my heart, be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

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