Did you ever have something bother you so heavily that you couldn’t get it out of your mind? Did you ever wonder how it was going to get fixed? Or how it might look if things were different? Me too.
For me that thing is inequality in the human race. I know we talk and fight about it so much. Black versus white. Rich versus poor. One religion or belief versus another. Men versus women. One political party versus another. It’s all an us versus them. We do it all the time and it appears ok as long as we’re on the upside of the “versus”.
We recently finished up a sermon series at my church entitled, “Labels”. It was glorious. We were exploring how the labels that we put on ourselves and others define who we are even if it’s not the whole picture or even the truth. Those labels become who we are; usually to our detriment because they are so limiting.
The ideas in these sermons resonated greatly with me that I was pondering how they could be put to good use. And then one Sunday one of our pastors, Carlos Velez, said something that ended up being the icing on the cake and ultimately has led me to deep, internal wrestling as I realize how dual and prejudiced I really am.
He said this, “Labels are more like price tags. We assign value based on what the label’s ‘worth’ is.” Pandora’s box. Opened. Never to be shut again. I want to say it one more time, “Labels are more like price tags. We assign value based on what the label’s ‘worth’ is.” How haunting is this?
Friends, I do this all the time! I label; I assign value. I put a price on the people I think about and prioritize. And for the first time in my life I’m scared of these thoughts. Who am I? God? Actually, God doesn’t assign lesser or higher values to people. Do I get to decide who has value and who doesn’t? It gets worse. I give time and attention (or a narcissistic lack thereof) to people based on what price I’ve given them that day. (Disclaimer: I am not saying we should let ourselves be abused or walked on. Been there. Done that. This is all in the context of healthy boundaries.) This is a thing though, right? We all do this, don’t we?
Then another jarring idea came to me. What if every person I meet I labeled “Priceless”. Everyone. What if I didn’t judge or categorize or put people on the upper shelf or in the clearance section? (Again, please use common sense here; I’m not saying throw all caution to the wind.) Who would we view differently?
To the mom who just yelled at her kids for the tenth time today, Priceless.
To the LGBTQ person who was just told you weren’t welcome at church, Priceless.
To the black young man who was just given a sideways glance for walking down the street, Priceless.
To the corporate CEO who is so disconnected from the world because of your position, you despise your title, Priceless.
To the soldier struggling with PTSD, Priceless.
To the person who is serving prison time for child molestation, Priceless.
To the politician who just voted to start airstrikes when you knew innocent people would be killed, Priceless.
To the woman who has had to fight stereotypes of beauty her whole life, Priceless.
To the homeless child ridiculed in school, Priceless.
To the young girl sex trafficked for the one thousandth time this year, Priceless.
To the pastor who can’t get his ish together and chooses to pretend anyway, Priceless.
To every person ever hurt, rejected or belittled by another human being, Priceless.
What if Priceless was our baseline? Not a visual label but a non-dualistic seeing of the depth of humanity and indescribable worth of every single person no matter what their outward presentation has been? What if we had clear vision, open eyes full of light to see past anything temporal or external and looked at the eternal value of every single individual?
Can I go someplace really uncomfortable for a minute? This struck me and I haven’t been able to break it. I’m struggling and wrestling with this and it’s shaking me to my core.
I have assigned value to people to numb myself into complacency and not caring. How ’bout them apples? I have cried hot, salty, ugly tears over this. And yet, I too am priceless.
So are you. What if we all started to breathe deeply into our awareness when labeling thoughts come into our minds? Who is this person? How valuable are they?
I’m asking a lot of questions. But what if? What if? What if prizing the blessed souls God put on this earth is what this world really needs?