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labels lie


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By Artby Jade:

Listening as the world goes by,

I see a blur.

Cars flying by.

The noise I hear just a slur.








“Good for nothing.”

“A Slut.”

To the heart, each word does cut.

A childlike faith cut off too soon.

Judgements that taint innocence to gloom.

The myth is busted,

because it’s not only sticks and stones

anymore that can break our bones.

We don’t realize

what our words jeopardize.

The price

our two-edged tongue can slice in one‘s life.

Each word brings one down,

closer to the ground,

heaping up the mound.

These words create doubt

about what we are about.

They scream out insecurity…

drowning out purity.

They often cause the sincere heart

to hide and dodge a painful dart.

The real life is camouflaged

to the status quo,

leaving us to ponder who is a friend and who is a faux?

We step back to hide from the attack.

Yet you may never know why I walk the way I do;

You’ve never tried on anothers’ shoe.

You may never see

who this persons destined to be.

You just shout out a mocking name.

You may not even purpose to name,

yet, the results are the same.

It’s the pride of man on display.

Others think it’s okay

to do what you do.

They now make fun too.

You’ve built yourself up.

You’ve shown others wassup.

The leader of the pack,

take a step back.

You’re “fly,”

but labels lie.

Yet some words can stick until they die.

It reduces a person of depth and meaning

to a word mimicked in playground teasing.


What’s meant for a can

shouldn’t be used on a man.

This lifes contents can’t be canned.

They can’t be judged on demand.

I’m jumping out of the box

as the clock tocks.

I won’t be confused, reduced, recycled, or reused.

I am unique, special and true.

I’m through.

You know what they say, “Your rubber. I’m glue.

Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks…”

Wait, what’s the next part?

Oh yeah, “To you?”

Well, now what good would that do?

What a hypocrite I would be.

In forgiveness, I too, want you to be free…

A bird out of a cage,

ridden of rage.

To be a “tough” one no more,

But able to adore.

Labels replaced…

individually embraced.

May you be blind to see all but the unique beauty of humanity.

Cans only in the store. Each life is worth so much more.


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Deadbeats don’t take care of their children. They neglect them when they’re around, skip child support payments, forget birthdays, and make life miserable for the other parent. They’re the worst kind of degenerate; they’re total scum.

Or so many of us believe. Sometimes about others, sometimes about ourselves.

There’s no doubt that children need caring for. Kids are precious to us, and few things unite us as a society like defending them. So the subject of “deadbeats” is understandably a touchy one.

The problem with labels like “deadbeat” is that, while they pertain to important issues, they don’t do anything to solve problems. We say them in anger — it feels good to utter them — and so we’re tricked into thinking we’ve accomplished something, when we’ve actually done nothing at all.

Like all Labels, this one is more than just an adjective. Labels make problems seem insurmountable and people appear unreachable. They’re used to dismiss people, not reach out to them.

Worse, there is no “fair” way to apply them, and no easy way to erase them once they’re misapplied. Sometimes we even make ourselves the target, proclaiming ourselves deadbeats when we don’t “measure up.”

If someone is shirking their responsibilities, don’t depend on a Label to remedy the situation. And if you feel inadequate, seek out the help of others rather than a self-imposed judgement. Choose actions over words, dialogue over dismissal, and love over labelling. When the problem is with people, the solution will be through people.

Labels: Don’t use them. Don’t accept them.


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It’s exciting to see the vigorous and challenging discussions that have happened during our Labels Lie series. The final images are chosen to ellicit a response and get people thinking, and a lot of work has gone into their creation.

We’re excited to present an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the Labels Lie series. We also got to sit down with Ed McGowan, the talented photographer behind the images, and talk about his own experiences with Labels. Check out the video above, and the interview below!

Have you ever been labeled? If so, what were the labels? How did they affect you?

I grew up as an army brat. I probably went to at least 10 schools growing up. I was always the “new kid.” Kids can be cruel and it’s never easy to break in to established friendship circles. I think for me, it made me a shy person.

What stood out the most to you in doing this project?

The realization that labels really affect people to the point where it molds who they are. They start to believe it, and unless told otherwise, go on believing it.

What would you tell someone who has been labeled?

I would tell them that the only opinion that matters is their own. The trick is to convince them of it.

What do you identify the most with in People of the Second Chance?

That the message is a constant reminder of self worth and the worth of others.


If you’re a photographer, click here to read a great post by Ed McGowan about the shoot setup, lighting, lens, textures, etc.


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By Ashley Smith:

When we first began the conversation about LABELS LIE, I was profoundly moved by each story and response. I realized that I was not alone in the shame, pain and ghosts of past labels. It was unsettling and motivating… and showed me the power of judgment, love, grace and healing. The conversation also reminded me of the beginning of my journey of studying human behavior in college. It brought back the theories that illuminated my personal journey to learn more about society and me.

That journey in college, through studying past research, actually showed me more about my self-identity and why I chose the behavioral patterns I did or do. I wanted to share one particular sociological theory that I believe relates directly to the LABELS LIE campaign.


The consequences of being labeled can chance the trajectory of a person’s life, and usually negatively, we know this not because it is some magical thought, but through years of research and through human behavior patterns.

People have a profound impact on how we view life, reality, behavior and our self-identity.  We see with social research with several sociological, psychological and communication theories, that through the use of symbolic interaction (language), we are in an ongoing game of charades, but in how it relates to us. We exchange meaning in the way we communicate to each other- through symbol use.

George Herbert Mead showed in 1934 how infants come to know persons first and only later come to know things. He asserted that our concept of self /personality is composed of self-awareness and self-image (both highly influenced by people).

Furthermore, he argued that the self-image is constructed of ideas about WHAT WE THINK OTHERS ARE THINKING ABOUT US.

Our self-identity and possible behaviors may be determined/influenced by the terms used to describe or classify us.

Through the Looking Glass Theory, we see that we are shaped by what we see in other people reflected back about who we are.

Simply put, the labels we use for people may dramatically influence their perception of self and further influencing their behavior. People may even act more deviant based on the label. Sometimes, the labeled individual incorporates the label in their concept of self.

When labels are used, they are constructing someone’s reality.

Additionally, social research has found that people who accept labeling of others have a difficult time changing their judgment or opinion about the person, despite evidence to the contrary. That means, being the label maker also profoundly impacts reality, too. It could correlate to judgement, hate and long time fallacies.

So what does all this research mean?

Labels stick and are enduring… and have the power to help construct someone’s self identity, label maker or person with the label. It’s a cycle that feeds the negative and deviant. It rewards the hate and stifles hope and grace. It leaves little to no room for positive change or restoration. Labels are not flexible nor do they grow, they are definitive and untrue.

This campaign is more than just shocking images to me, it is the beginning of breaking a long lasting cycle.


How can we break the cycle?

Spread TRUTH. Do the research. See the infinite value and possibility in someone first, celebrate them for being simply alive. Affirm the life in each of us, give room for change and new beginnings. Spread HOPE everywhere you go. Leave traces of GRACE. Set someone up to WIN.

More LABELS LIE images here


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Labels are a violation.

Somewhere, sometime, someone spoke words over you, and their lies and violation cut deep. You believed them, and became painfully labeled and shamed.

Today, it’s time to identify the label maker, the person who we allowed to label us. We are going to stare down that shame until it dissolves into the nothing it is… no label stands a chance in the light of our worth.

We are going to put a name to the wound… we can’t truly heal till we know why it’s there in the first place. Who said it? Who put the label there? Was it once? Over and over again? Either way, it was carved into us. We are going to choose to be free from the lie of the toxic label, we are going to choose truth.

Let’s as a community of grace talk about them. Wrestle with them. And let’s all be brave in confronting our label maker. This is a safe place.

Let’s agree stop the violation today, with each of us… and speak up when we see it happening, even casually. We are not going to sit there and accept it anymore. We will not allow lying, hurtful words to carve meaning into identity. We are going to believe in the truth of who we are – beautiful, loved, accepted and free.

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