Ripples #1145: Defining Labels


There are many labels that accurately describe me; none alone are sufficient to define me.
-Gwen Pace, written and shared by Gwen in Cincinnati, OH


We are all human beings first. The rest are just adjectives and categories that don’t define us nor make us more or less worthy of life, love and respect.
-Beth R. Pless, written and shared by Beth in Green Bay, WI


Several weeks ago, Gwen submitted a quote that had popped into her head while processing some difficult work conversations around the topic of diversity and inclusion. I was immediately drawn to it and since these were HER words and not someone else’s quote, we exchanged a few emails to help refine and polish the sentence. We were torn about using the word LABELS since it often has a negative connotation. We tried substituting some other words (terms, tags, names, statements, observations, etc.), but none of them sounded just right.

And then in a bit of serendipitous wonder, I found myself in an engaging discussion about political polarization on Zoom call with my Patreon Peeps, when the topic of labels came up. Stacey told us about Miss Honey’s Long List of Labels, an invaluable lesson she picked up while student teaching. If you’re too busy to take a peek right now, suffice it to say that Miss Honey created a unique and powerful strategy of transforming the all too common problem of name-calling among classmates into a fabulous lesson about the dangers and opportunities of labels.

That told me LABELS was the right word to focus on. The next step was to find a good Boulder that would pair well with Gwen’s awesome Pebble…and what do I find in my archive of quote submission? A lovely thought that was also written and submitted by a Rippler. I love it when this happens!

So I guess my learning this week is that the actual word LABEL shares commonalities with the many labels that get applied to us humans….sometimes useful to advance understanding, and at other times problematic: limiting, misleading, and/or confusing.

I hope you’ll join Gwen, Beth and I as we continue to ponder the cautions and the opportunities of the labels we give to ourselves and others.

P.S. It really does take a village to keep the Ripples flowing ever outward. I’m grateful to all 30,000 subscribers who join us for 60 seconds every week and especially those who submit quotes, encourage their friends and colleagues to subscribe, and/or pitch in a few bucks to support our cause by purchasing books and stickers OR by signing on as a Patreon Peep. It’s. All. So. Good.

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