Have you ever been in the middle of an act of bullying? Maybe you’ve been the receiver, an instigator, or maybe even just an innocent bystander. We all know what bullying looks like—when someone is singled out and ridiculed for being different.
Take Mark Baker for example, the red head from the movie Cheaper by the Dozen. Because he is so unlike his other brothers and sisters, they call him “FedEx,” claiming that he was dropped off into their family. In the end, as a result of constant teasing from his classmates and family, Baker runs away.
I’ve been called alot of names in my life (this is not reserved to grade school). I don’t say this to seek pity; in fact, I think most of us could say the same about our experiences with others.
You see, I’ve come to realize that people will always label. They will mock. They will judge. It is only human nature. People will always single out others. It protects them by keeping others from doing the same.
To clarify: I’m not saying labeling is okay. On the other hand, labeling is inevitable in this life. So what do we do about it?
Back in high school, I used to let name-calling get to me. I used to take what others said about me into consideration. I used to entertain those negative thoughts. I learned the hard way that I couldn’t afford to take labels to heart.
Life gets dangerous when we define ourselves by shallow labels. Tall, short, funny, dull, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, old, young, active, lazy, black, white, loud, quiet, dumb, smart—those words can’t define who we are.
The things we do can’t define us. Our career can’t. Other people’s opinions can’t. Our looks can’t. Our friends can’t. Our grades can’t. Our kids can’t. Our church can’t.
If we are looking to define ourselves, we must do so in relation to Christ. We must see ourselves as God sees us. Not as our parents see us. Not as our coworkers see us. And not as our friends see us.
How do we do this?
First and foremost, we must choose not to define ourselves by our problems, shortcomings and differences.
My church, River Valley, in Mishawaka, Ind. has a little exercise that helps with this. After opening worship, our pastor will sometimes prompt us to turn to our neighbors and say “Hi, I’m (fill in your problem here).” This greeting is followed by heavy laughter. Next, our pastor asks us to try something different. Instead, we turn to our neighbors and say, “Hi, I’m a beloved child of God.” The sanctuary’s reaction is quite different this time. Usually, this exchange leaves the room eerily quiet. My guess is probably because we never think of ourselves in this way.
I think when I define myself in relation to what God thinks of me instead of what others or what I think of myself, my perspective changes a little bit. I stop focusing on my problems, shortcomings and differences, and I start relishing in the reality that with Christ, none of that matters. Jesus didn’t come to Earth, live a perfect life and die on a cross for no reason. Jesus came to save us, and he also came to free us from our biggest problem of all—sin.
I think understanding this starts with prayer. Start by telling God how you see yourself. Next, ask God what he sees, and ask him to help you see that too. My hope is that you’ll start to see yourself in a whole new light—as precious, honored and loved in God’s sight.
“Others were given in exchange for you.
I traded their lives for yours
because you are precious to me.
You are honored, and I love you.”
-Isaiah 43:4 (NLT)
Question: What would life look like if we lived in this reality? How would it be different?