When was the last time you were stopped dead in your tracks? Glancing down at the label on a pack of American cheese I had just bought brought me to a screeching halt. $10.02! What?! For cheese? I only bought a pound and it was on sale. Still in my state of shock, I quickly scanned the rest of the label. There in bold print just above the crazy price read “Black Forest Ham.” Not only was it the wrong product, but the cost was nearly three times what it should have been. The fiasco helped me to discover four powerful truths about labels and how words can impact us.

Labels can be really wrong

Thinking about my package of cheese, it’s easy to conclude that labels can be wrong, really wrong. I didn’t look at the package and question if I had mistakenly been given ham. I knew it was cheese. But, then why when someone gives us a wrong label do we hold on to it as though it’s truth? We allow words to impact us weeks, and years beyond they’re spoken. We sometimes allow people’s opinions to become labels that we hold on to as fact.

But friend, labels can be really wrong! Words that are spoken to us or about us and be sticky, like a label and linger long after spoken. The next time someone’s words start to impact how you see or think about yourself or your potential, recognize those words are trying to stick like a label. When that happens, disarm the power of their words. Remember my cheese. I could call it ham all I wanted but it is still cheese. If sticky words threaten to reduce your sense of self worth, or cause you to shrink back, remember who you really are. Know that people’s words, labels, or opinions do not define who you really are. You are a valued daughter or son of God, not whatever limiting words have been spoken to you. When words threaten to tear you down, stand confident in who God says you are instead of trusting labels of people.

The label doesn’t change the contents

If I had made a sandwich with my deli purchase the next day, it would have been a cheese sandwich. The label of ham didn’t change what was inside of the Ziploc bag that it came in. The only way the contents of the bag could be ham would be if I replaced the cheese with ham. Labels by themselves don’t change the contents.

So, when someone words try to stick to you like a label, unless you change the contents of what’s inside, your inside hasn’t changed. Recognize it for what it is, an external wrong label. Don’t allow words or opinions to change how you see yourself, how you define yourself, or impact what you have on the inside. Lose the label instead of losing you.

 The label comes with a cost

Upon realizing the error, it was obvious that the deli clerk’s labeling error cost me nearly three times what it should have cost. Allowing labels to change our sense of self-worth or purpose can be an expensive cost. Allowing a negative label to stick in our minds, can cause us to hold ourselves back and likely forfeiting some of our impact that we could have had on the world around us. It’s important to recognize where we’ve allowed labels to jade our thoughts. Once we’ve identified them, we can work to let go and be freed from their limiting influence.

Beyond the impact to our sense of worth, we can subconsciously label our possessions. Holding on to things that don’t have a sentimental value and haven’t been used in years essentially labels those things as valuable or useful. Clutter of things we hold on to can cost us peace of mind. And, they come with an opportunity cost that is missed when they could be used by someone who truly needs them.

It’s up to us to resolve discrepancies

When there’s a discrepancy between a label and the contents, it’s up to us to resolve the difference. The day after my cheese purchase, I headed back to the store. I wasn’t about to “eat” the cost of the difference (pun intended). Once at the store, they quickly realized their surprise mistake. They refunded the price of the ham and didn’t charge me for the cheese as a way of apologizing for their error.

When we encounter wrong labels, it’s up to us to do what we do with it. In most cases, it’s an internal decision. What am I going to do now that I’m aware of how these words are impacting me?”  In the case of words that try to put us in a box, we can take time to remind ourselves of who we are and who we were created to be. We have the authority to ignore a label, just like I’m ignoring that my cheese says “ham” on it.

When we don’t choose how we will reconcile words that stick to us, we can be stuck paying an expensive price. Reconciling the cost of holding on to belongings that maybe we should have let go of years ago is also possible. By asking a few questions and looking at our possessions a bit more objectively, we can make changes that lighten our load. You can ask “Does this still have value, or is it useful or does it have sentimental importance?” No? Then move it on and let it bless someone else.

It’s your turn

Who knew a package of cheese could hold so much wisdom? I love how God can use common things in everyday life to get our attention and remind us of his truths. We don’t have to accept words or labels that people give us. We have the power to choose which words we hold on to or allow to shape our sense of self worth and purpose. Instead of choosing people’s opinions, we can choose to believe and listen to what God says about us and who he says we are.

Have you ever let an opinion hold you back o,r is one holding you back now? Have you ever had an old dusty opinion from years ago creep out of the recesses of your mind only to try to keep you in a box? Or, have you subconsciously used labels to keep “stuff” that deep down you know you should get rid of?  If you can say yes to any of those questions, you’re not alone! This week raise your awareness where words or labels have crept into your life and impacted your worth, purpose, or peace. Then once you “see” the limiting words for what they are, choose what you do with them. Remember the words of people don’t have the power or authority to change the “contents” of you.

If this resonates with you, I’d love to hear from you. Even if my cheese story just brought you a smile, I’d love to hear that too. And if you feel so inclined, why not click to share so that your friends and family can be reminded by the powerful impact of words when they create labels.

Until next time friend, be blessed!

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