Direct From Jeff:

Labels

LabelsA friend of mine whom I haven’t seen in a long time sent me a message the other day and he asked me an interesting question: “Are you still a COUNTRY singer? Or are you a CHRISTIAN singer now?”

Of course I answered “both”, and while it didn’t bother me, it made me start thinking, which led to some questions:

“Why do I have to be one or the other? Either or? Why can’t I be a singer and a musician and a writer and a producer and a speaker and a husband and a Daddy and a friend and….”

You get my point? Why do I have to have a label?

The answer: for everybody else.

See, I KNOW what I am. I know WHO I am. I know what I do, what I CAN do, and what I WANT to do. And I know God and what HE can do in me and through me. That’s really all I NEED to know. NONE of that needs labeling. Not for me anyway.

But the world wants labels. We’ve come to depend on them like a drug. “He’s this and she’s that this is that and that’s THIS.”

My next door neighbor is a retired minister. When I see him out mowing his lawn, (which is ALWAYS greener than mine) do I think, “There’s the retired minister, mowing his lawn!” ?

NO! I think, “There’s Phil, mowing his lawn! Wonder what his secret is?!? I bet he and Sue (his wife) are out there at MIDNIGHT spray painting their yard so it’s greener than mine! Wonder if his grand kids are coming by? Wonder what book he’s reading!”

And on and on…! But I don’t stick a label on him.

When I signed with RCA Records and released my first single we went out on the radio tour, visiting stations and Program Directors and DJs so they could get to know me and I could get to know them and maybe even get them to play my music. One of the very first DJs I met looked at me after hearing Long Slow Kisses for the first time and flatly stated, “YOU sing, WE’LL talk!”, referring to the speaking parts in the song.

He immediately labeled me as a Conway Twitty sound alike and that’s as far as it went. He didn’t listen to another song. As soon as he put a label on me he closed his mind.

CLOSED HIS MIND.

And there’s my problem with labels.

Labels work great on inanimate objects. If you’re cataloging books, label them. Helps you to keep track of them. Storing your belongings in the attic? Label it! Food in the grocery store? DEFINITELY label it! The more info the better!

But PEOPLE?

Maybe we ought to just leave those labels off ourselves and others.

Here’s why:

Just like the radio DJ, the moment we label a person with a specification of WHAT they are, we close our mind to WHO they are. It’s the way our brains are wired! Name it- move on. Not only do we close our minds to WHO they are- but we LIMIT who they are to us and we limit who we are to them. We limit who they can BE! We limit who WE can BE! AND we limit the blessing we can be to each other!!

Labeling someone can even be a form of judgement!

Can you imagine if God just simply labeled US and moved on?

SINNER.

ADDICT.

LIAR.

THIEF.

MURDERER.

ADULTERER.

LOST.

HOPELESS.

I’m pretty sure that if God labeled us the way we label others- neither grace, forgiveness, nor redemption would ever be possible because labels never change.

People can and do change. We grow. We grow UP. We learn. We can be better. We GET better. We are not a one or two word summation of ourselves. We are each a lifetime of experiences, mistakes made, lessons learned, loves lost, loves found and battles fought, lost, and won. We are ever moving, ever changing. We are human.

We are God’s children. Made in His image. For a purpose with a destiny.

Let’s not limit ourselves with Labels.

Peace,

Jeff

Comments
  1. Sharron

    470 days ago

    We start out in life as young children giving and receiving labels…As adults, what can we do when we’ve had negative and limiting labels attached to us
    for most of our lives…

    Jeff, I hope your article helps everyone decide now that this is the last day to live up to a label – we are so much more than labels
    and WE can achieve whatever WE desire when we rip off the
    label, crawl out of the pigeonhole and break free to be the whole and wonderful person
    we really are the person God created us to be !

  2. Mary

    112 days ago

    Perhaps this is one reason why I have never limited myself to just one thing and I encourage my children to be the same way. Growing up I was a cheerleader, a band geek, a book worm, and JROTC dork. I was in Spanish club, drama, choir and JROTC Raiders and Drill Team/Color Guard. I had friends that were all over the label board. I didn’t limit myself to one thing so no one was ever able to place a label on me…I was just there. I didn’t limit my friends so no one could claim me to be a part of a certain group either. I belonged no where and everywhere all at once. My family placed labels on everyone but would not see the labels attached to themselves. I questioned that there had to be more to the story and went beyond what my family was trying to teach me. My brothers never did and even as adults they still live with labels on people. I am glad that I learned not to place labels or get them stuck to me. I have something valuable to pass on to my children and that is the first step to learning to love others for who they are as a person, not based on a label. <3 Jeff, you are a great singer who happens to sing country and gospel, but YOU are YOU and your fans wouldn't want you any other way! <3