I used to think that the opposite of “love” was “hate,” and maybe it still is. You’ll remember that two weeks ago amid these posts, we contemplated the concept of contempt, which seems close to the opposite of love, although more contrasting with honor; contempt is a form of anger directed toward a perceived lower-status individual.
This weekend I had a conversation with my well-respected friend, Collin, who inspired me to wonder about how to love my neighbor a little more. How do I better love the people put in my path? … and not just those who think like me?
In this thing we keep calling “the year 2020,” is the opposite of love, therefore, something else? Has the opposite of love and respect digressed into something long perceived as a little more casual? …something maybe a little more socially acceptable? If we can be lured, no less, into believing a response is socially acceptable, we never have to wrestle with any potential foolishness we may instead be unintentionally fostering.
What if the opposite of “love,” then, was actually to “label”?
Hear me here…
There are two parts to the definition. Part one:
label | ˈlābəl | v. — to assign to a category…
And two: to assign to a category, especially inaccurately or restrictively.
In other words, we are designating false divisions for entire people groups. For example…
Police aren’t “pigs.”
Black men aren’t “thugs.”
Democrats aren’t “Marxists.”
Republicans aren’t “racists.”
Millennials aren’t “narcissists.”
The only label accurately applied to all of the above is ”human.”
But let’s go one step further — because if we’re really transparent, we’ve each been guilty of saying something inaccurate. Why does it matter? Why does it really matter if we assign such colossal, indivisible categories?
… We get entrenched in our opinion; we can easily, earnestly conclude at times that another makes no sense… So why does it really matter if I partake in assigning these mass labels that Twitter, social media rants, and opinion pieces vaguely veiled as “news” routinely project? After all, most of it’s in jest, so-to-speak. I know not every single police officer, black man, Democrat, Republican, and Millennial is that way. Just well, most of them…
Hear me once more… allow me a startling question…
How does a genocide begin?
… The Holocaust… Rwanda… Cambodia…
Approximately 67% of the Jewish population in Europe… 70% of the Tutsis (a Bantu speaking social class) in Rwanda … 99% of the Vietnamese Cambodians…
Notice the entire people groups.
Friends, years after the Holocaust, scholars continue to ask how in the world such could actually happen. How could the intentional annihilation of an entire people group occur in a decent, civilized country? How could we kill classes, ethnicities, or people simply because of what they looked like or believed? How, too, could millions more stand by and watch?
Allow me to soberly suggest it begins with labels.
Labels make another lesser. Labels dehumanize.
And there’s one more sobering question… if we’re transparent enough to ask it…
How do we guard against a genocide happening here — a current, decent, civilized country?
We start by stopping with the labels… recognizing to label is not only not to love; it’s also to be wholly inaccurate.