Dec 20, 2013

Mixed Labels

I created this image several months ago but have never gotten to a point where I feel like it fully expresses what I want it to.  I still don’t feel like it’s quite there yet…

As I sat on my computer creating it, my 9 year old came up behind me and asked what I was doing.
“Take a look at this,” I said to him.  “What do you think this picture is trying to say?”

He cocked his head to a side and looked thoughtfully at the picture for several seconds.  

“I think it’s trying to say that everyone has a good, or a pretty side- and a bad, or ugly side to them.  But there is more good than there is bad,” he said.

“Yes,” I said as I wrapped my arm around him.  That’s exactly what I had been pondering over the past few days.

So often I struggle with my own judgments of people- particularly when I feel terribly let down and disappointed by them at one moment, and then surprised at their goodness and compassion in what seems like the very next moment.  It would be so much easier to put people in little boxes labeled “dangerous” or “unreliable,” and then to judge every future interaction based on what the label reads on their box.  Where it becomes tricky is when their labels read, “untrustworthy but compassionate” or “selfish but loving.”  So much disappointment and frustration comes from these “mixed labels” as we try to navigate among the people we love the most.  

But I think how often I am grateful for my own mixed labels.  “Short-tempered but well-intended,” “impulsive but thoughtful.”  How grateful I am that people haven’t written me off, or put me in a little box that bears only the label of my faults.  

I think when it all comes down to it, this is what I find the most difficult in knowing how to love people… to love them fully despite a dark side- a dark side that is a binding thread amongst all of humanity.