Blog › Label Abuse (Part 2)

Label Abuse (Part 2)

Young woman pushing stamper to forehead, profile, close-up

Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.

Last week, I discussed the danger of attaching labels to other people. Much of the angry rhetoric we encounter everywhere today is based upon “identity politics,” which is simply another word for labelling.

For example, labelling is being used on many of our university campuses and in the corporate world to shut down the open exchange of competing ideas. This attack on free speech, which is an outcome of political correctness, is casting a deep chill over the debate of differing perspectives in the public square. If this trend is not reversed, we will ultimately forfeit freedoms for which many Canadians sacrificed their lives on the battlefield.

While labelling others has many pitfalls, self-labelling can be equally, if not more, problematic. For example, I am a Canadian but does this label matter? Because Canada is well regarded internationally, some Canadian citizens put Canada tags on their luggage to signal virtue. However, Canadian citizenship does not confer virtue upon individual Canadians. Our culture is not homogeneous. Not all Canadians subscribe to the same values and, like every other nation, Canada has produced its share of “bad apples” since being founded 150 years ago.

Turning to business labelling, I know from firsthand experience the common tendency to label oneself. For many executives, their identity is strongly entwined with the title on their business card. For this reason, retirement is sometimes highly disorienting. Upon retiring, many marketplace leaders feel as though their identity has imploded with the death of their business card! In essence, they cannot find a meaningful raison d’être outside their role in the marketplace.

Self-labelling can be equally, if not more, problematic than labelling others.

Regarding spiritual labelling, not all those who call themselves Christians are true followers of Jesus. According to the Bible, there will be no individuals in heaven who trusted solely in their membership in a Christian denomination to save them. Only those who have decided to reverse course, trust in Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf and look to Jesus for leadership rather than following their own whims and desires will enjoy eternal life with God.

Based upon the Bible, believers in Jesus understand that God regards all our human labels as of no ultimate value. Rather, God will judge each individual at death based upon how he or she responded to His free offer of forgiveness. In his letter to the early churches in Galatia, the apostle Paul succinctly captured God’s perspective on the labels we apply to ourselves: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

How about you? Are you putting all your trust in the label on your business card? Alternatively, are you putting all your trust in the label on the denomination to which you belong?

Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.