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By December 6, 2011 labels lie 17 Comments

Posted by Mike Foster:
(This portrait is part of the Labels Lie Campaign. Please share.)

Most of us will never forget the hurtful things that were said to us as children.

Words of shame. Verbal abuse. The screaming and yelling. Forever branded by the uncensored words that were spoken by insensitive parents, relatives, friends, classmates or teachers. The labels hurt and they leave a mark.

Supposedly we just move on and grow up and we live our lives and that’s that. But I’m not so sure.

In doing research for the Labels Lie campaign I listened to your stories. Stories of pain. Stories of people trapped by harsh and critical words from their childhood.

Recently, I read an article about a man convicted of murder. He shared how when he was a child his alcoholic Mother looked him in the eyes and said straight to his face, “If I would of had the 50 bucks I would of aborted you. But now I’m stuck with you.” I can only imagine how that horrific moment played a part in shaping his eventual future.

The Labels Lie campaign is about dealing with the ugly things we believe about ourselves. And for many that starts with branded messages of our childhood.

So maybe today we could acknowledge what was said and done to us as kids. And with courage we can refuse to allow it to have power over us. Perhaps if we faced the lie of the label, we could finally be freed from it.

And maybe for parents and adults, this is a reminder to be softer with the things we say to our children.

For others, this is a reminder that bullying of children is unacceptable in all forms whether it comes from an adult or a classmate. If you’re doing that, it must stop now.

Labels Lie. Don’t Accept Them. Don’t Use Them.

I would love to hear your thoughts.



  • Jason Wert says:

    I’ve heard three people I know involved in ministry this week who used a similar term to the r-word.  It just made me shake my head.  Words matter.  

  • As a mother to a special needs boy who appears “normal” on the surface, I almost come unglued internally every time I hear someone refer to someone else as the “R” word. My children’s father uses the term towards them frequently, and now they have begun referring to our pets as the R word. That’s how fast it become engrained in their heads as being acceptable. The problem is, when those terms are used to describe others, it becomes yet another voice that will eventually make up the “self talk” that satan will eventually use to deceive and pull another away from the cross. I’ve been with my child in public and I’ve seen the unspoken hurt on his face when he hears someone call another the “R” word in a derogatory way. People don’t realize…sticks and stones and broken bones are easier to handle than the cutting words that pierce the soul.

  • I have a son who has been bullied the last two years in middle school, and even though we get involved every time, along with the school to deal with it, you can feel the hurt from the look on his face.  I still can remember those hurtful things said to me as a child, I am not sure they will ever leave my brain.  Words can be more destructive than any weapon we can come up with.  I pray that he and the other children that live with this on a regular basis, do not attach the labels others give them to themselves.  You are more than any label can ever define you.

  • OLC2 says:

    I seen this first hand. I have and had friend/love ones I’ve witnessed struggling with this issue of past hurts. It is difficult helping someone get through this feeling of nothingness. But it can be done with diligent encouragements.

    I thank you for the “People of a Second Chance” ministry. It’s ministries like this that will assist people surmount this troubling thought. Maybe with outreach, like this, people will be able to see themselves through God eyes verses others opinions.

  • Steven T says:

    So well spoken Karen! As I read I wondered and tried to remember my childhood and if there were labels that I was given that may have affected my future or the way I viewed myself. Things I’d possibly pushed so far from the surface and been hurt by that I possibly didn’t even remember or better yet chose to forget. I began to weep without even realizing that the labels that I’ve struggled with weren’t so much from my childhood but came after I left home and tried to find my way in the “real world” as a young adult. For many years i did allow these labels to have power over me. Mistakes made at a young and dumb time in my life that some never forgot and conveniently chose to group me in or as and my selfish part in hurting others that seemed to really identify who I was to others for many years. Labels do lie, they hurt they destroy who we can and want to become. I’ve learned to no longer believe them and am working very hard on not using them! This campaign and the anticipation of it being here, has really opened my eyes to labels and just how readily we, I, spit them out of my mouth to classify someone and not have to know them therefore taking no responsibility of how it may shape them or affect how they view themselves! Grace! What an option:) Thanks for a topic that helps me see how I was identified and more important to me now… How I sometimes identify others! Labels lie! Dont believe them. Don’t use them.!

  • Margaret says:

    Mike:  Thank you for including what is not always recognized about childhood labeling – it isn’t just from other children.  The labels slapped on by adults are often MORE harmful because they come from positions of power and “respect”. 

    Perhaps seeing it spelled out will help some parents and teachers realize that when they call children names and berate them with labels like these,

    it isn’t training. 
    It isn’t discipline. 
    It IS bullying and

    As parents, if we have been doing this – or watching this happen, this is our second chance to put a stop to it and to give the children in our sphere of influence a second chance to avoid the labels.

    SO proud to be POTSC!!!

  • Amy Hunt says:

    Words do pierce the soul and allowing words like that to take up residence in the mind only harvests complacency. There is great power in words and when we steer clear of the ones that the Enemy truly uses to take the life out of living, we are not allowing him to have a foothold. Maintaining a commitment for truth in words is one of the most impactful things you can do!

  • Amy Hunt says:

    He uses these painful, ugly moments in a child’s life–of realizing disappointment from peers–to create beauty in a life. That’s the Amazing Grace I am in awe of. It’s too bad that kids have to endure bullying, yet when they have someone speaking truth in their life there is an opportunity for them to understand what unconditional love and acceptance is–for them, and for the ones doing the bullying–and to choose grace. An ugly story turns beautiful, and all is used for purpose. It’s your support, truth-telling and prayers that speak louder than the noise of the bullying. Telling our children that they are worth more than any label is a huge, powerful truth!

  • Deborah says:

    The photo reminds me of a commercial I saw long ago. It said the words were “written all over your face”. 
    During my growing years I was subjected to many times of abuse, but the bullying was EVERY day. 
    The words stay deep inside where we can’t reach them. Too bad they can still be seen on our faces.
    I linked your post to the corresponding post on my blog.
    Thank you for what you are doing. 
    What we are doing to each other simply has to stop.
    SignificantEncounters.com     http://wp.me/p1Deai-1h

  • Deborah says:

    Words can kill, but they also can give life.
    Praying words of life for your son today.

  • Bill says:

    Can we just clarify that the “enemy” doesn’t come up with these words, people do? Thanks.

  • Joey says:

    Just as cameras weren’t made to create pornography, words weren’t meant to hurt others.  We (as in people) may make up words, but it IS the enemy who tricks us and decieves us into using them in hurtful ways. 

  • As my 5-year old starts school and I hear him talking about other kids teasing him, I pray that the labels don’t stick, that I can remove them as soon as they’re attached, and that he doesn’t have to carry the kinds of wounds I spent decades struggling with (and, at least some days, continue to struggle with).

  • Tippietippie says:

    Home school your kid NOW before its too late!

  • Tippietippie says:

    And yet.. You, as a parent, continued to force your kid into an unsafe place. Why do you not take your kid out of school and homeschool him? Or change schools?

  • Tippietippie says:

    Pardon me, amy, but that’s a load of crap. Kids seek the approval of their peers. When they’re bullied by them, no amount of words from the parents can make up for emotional abuse six hours a day, five days a week. Continuing to send your kid into an unsafe place when YOU are his protector is child abuse! Homeschool, or switch schools. It isn’t going to get any better.

  • Tippietippie, with your series of responses, I get the vibe that there’s a story behind them. Care to share so we can know where you’re coming from and allow us to have some informed responses?

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