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My Weariness of Labels and the Myth of Tolerance

I am tired.

Tired of sentences with, “conservatives on the right… liberals on the left… Republicans… Democrats… whites… blacks… Religious… Secularists… Atheists… Red Sox fan… Yankee fan…”

I am tired of the labels.

We pride ourselves on being a country of tolerance where freedom of speech, religion, and opinion valued regardless of the source. Yet, a brief skim on the inter-webs, or favorite social media platform, and opinions demonized, people labeled to fit a nice neat cozy political, or religious, or favorite sports team boxes.

Not the tolerant society we pretend to live in.

I am tried of labels, boxes, and categories.

Labels are restrictive and don’t tell the entire story of a person. When we start with labels, we’ve already determined there’s nothing to learn from them, nothing good in them; and nothing valuable for them to offer the world.

I am tired of how labels shut down conversation, eliminate dignity, honor, and respect of another person.

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Labels are dehumanizing. They create a box in which political or religious affiliation is the sum of a man or woman. The identity of a person relegated to Republican, Democrat, Christian, or Jewish. As if anyone has all their political and religious ideologies nailed down. As if people don’t have doubts, and fears, and sins to deal with.

But we know humans aren’t easily defined. They are complex and made with great care by a Creator (at least what I believe). And simultaneously broken, evil, weak, finite, sinful, wounded, scared, and fearful. Nobody wants to admit their racism or have doubts about everything. Welcome to humanity.

I am tired of the myth of tolerance.

We are not a tolerant people. We have no space and bandwidth for hearing a person out and giving them the benefit of the doubt. We treat people like machines and cogs and opinions and ideologies. Instead of lovers, criers, feelers, husbands, wives, friends, doubters, sinners, weaklings, brothers, sisters, and the way I see it: image bearers of God.

Tolerance is a myth we designed on paper and is far from reality in practice.

How do I know? The moment you speak up five thousand people have an opinion of why your bigoted, racist, evil, shallow, small minded, conservative, liberal, and need to shut up.

Not exactly the response to how tolerance is defined:

a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions, beliefs, and practices that differ from one’s own.

We lack the fair, objective, and permissive part. But other than that, we are a very tolerant society (sigh).

My vote is not to recover or discover tolerance afresh. I want an entirely different pathway altogether. My fight is for a deeper ideology and one that’s a proven resource to heal the souls of people and communities and the world.

Tolerance doesn’t go far enough because it simply puts up with people (you can label me later).

My vote is for love. Sacrificial and humble and patient love. Where we don’t automatically destroy a person because they have differing views on politics, religion, or sexuality.

I vote for a love that forgives and confesses and says, “I’m sorry,” when we demonize, and label, and build giant boxes around our fellow humans. Love rooted in action and not just talk. I vote for a love that blesses our enemies even if they are a Yankee fan.

I’m tired of labels. People are more than labels, and boxes, and categories. Humanity too complex for that. Tolerance doesn’t go far enough. Love is what we need.

You can label me how you want now.