There is a certain injustice in words, an inherent lie in labels.

Words cast a certain shadow upon the things they are used to describe. In school, they teach us that this idea is called "connotation." The connotation of words change the way that you look at things. A classic example of connotation is this:

"She is being childish."
"She is being child-like."

Both of these sentences have the same idea: to compare the subject to a child. However, the connotations between these two sentences are completely different. The first sentence suggests that the subject is like a child in negative ways. Perhaps she throws tantrums and cries a lot. The second sentence has a much more positive air about it. "Child-like" implies that the subject is humble, passive, and willing to learn.

How often do you think about the connotation of words that you assign to people?

Do you look at the bum talking to himself on the street and think, "He's straight up crazy."? As you walk through the grocery store and see the scars on a young woman's arms from cutting, do you think, "She must be suicidal."? Do you listen to your friend's expressions of sadness and think, "That is completely controllable."? Do you read in the newspaper about a recent suicide and think, "How selfish!"?

I've thought these things before. In fact, these examples come straight from experience. Labeling comes as easily as breathing to me. Without even thinking about it, I classify everyone I pass and make a decision about who they are. It is so easy, so natural. I've often thought haughtily, "I'm really good at reading people."

Who am I to judge? Why do I get to assign words to people, to establish who they are? What makes me so superior that I get to cast negative words with their negative connotations upon the people I meet?Nothing gives me an excuse to label and to judge. It is unfair in every meaning of the word.

Not only is labeling unfair, it is un-Christlike. Christ ate and drank with "publicans and sinners." (Mark 2:16) Christ did not look at the outward appearance of those around Him, but looked upon their hearts. Christ sees the bum on the streets and knows of his longing for family and for home. Christ sees the scars on the wrists of the young women as marks of the deep pain that she feels, and sees her commitment to improve. Christ listens to our expressions of sadness and feels the pain with us. Christ understands all that is in the heart and life of the person who committed suicide. How grateful I am to know that despite all of my outward shortcomings, Christ knows my heart.

There is a certain injustice in words, an inherent lie in labels. 


Under the Weather

I find myself under the weather pretty often. I am perpetually fighting to be in the sunshine, to be happy. That's why I named this blog "Finding the Sunshine." I'm trying to find it, trying to progress and be optimistic despite the challenges I have.

In the picture above, 3/4 of it is under dark clouds. The rest of it is under white clouds. Here's the point: the whole picture is full of clouds.

Life is full of clouds. Bad test scores, illness, job losses, break-ups, heart breaks, death...you name it. Just like the clouds in the sky, these "life clouds" vary in their shape, size, color, and severity. And, to complicate it even more, the clouds that are thunderheads for me might just be wispy little clouds to you. Often, clouds fill the skyline of our minds, convincing us that it's always going to be cloudy.

Look at the picture again. In the top left corner, there is a tiny little bit of blue sky. Here's my plea to myself and to anyone reading this post: Despite how cloudy, stormy, and dark it gets--there are still days of sunshine ahead. In fact, the sun is just behind those clouds. If you get high enough above them, you find yourself bathed in light. Clouds are not the end of everything. They are ugly sometimes, but there is a certain beauty to them--to their height and majesty. The trials in our lives are grisly and hard, but there is a certain beauty to them as well. They help us learn and grow. Or, if nothing else, they remind us to be thankful for the times of sunshine.

Today, I have been under the weather. (wah wah wah.) I have had some disappointments, stress, and a headache from hell. All I've seen is clouds, clouds, clouds. But guess what. There's still sunshine! Some of the things I do to find sunshine are: talk to my parents, eat healthy food, (pizza counts, right?) text someone I know is struggling, or spend some time outside. (even when it is cloudy) I'm trying. It's difficult. But, let me tell you, finding the sunshine is worth it.


Keeping up Appearances

During my junior year of high school, we had a discussion in my Honor's English class that has stuck with me through the years. I can't remember what we were reading, but we were talking about masks. My teacher said something along the lines of, "We all wear masks, whether we realize it or not."

Lately I've realized just how prevalent masks are in our society. We live in a selfie era, a time when the world practically demands that we prove to our "friends" how happy we are. We post pictures that are edited, manipulated, and posed in order to fulfill a definition of perfection that the world provides for us. When we go and do fun things, we have to make sure that our friends on all our social media networks are aware of just how adventurous, happy, and exciting we are. It's almost as if that if a picture wasn't taken and uploaded to Facebook, it didn't happen. 

I have a hard time with this because I fall prey to it so easily. I catch myself posting pictures that are beyond edited to make it appear as though I am happier, prettier,
more popular, and more exciting than I really am. I put on a mask in order to match up to the standards of perfection that the world gives me. 

I am not perfect, and neither is anyone else. I weigh more than I want, I have a hard time getting out of bed and getting things done, I can be extremely irritable and grouchy...the list goes on. There are many moments of tears, frustration, anger, and confusion that I don't put on Facebook. Heck, I don't want people to see that side of me. I want people to think I'm happy and successful. 

Here's the trick: I am happy. I am successful. But, I'm not perfect. There's so much more to me than the pictures I post on Instagram. I'm tired of being miserable when I look at the masks of others and assume that those masks are a perfect representation of who that person is. 

So, here's to being genuine. Here's to having fun times without posting a picture. Here's to refusing to believe the world's lies. Here's to taking off the mask and being yourself. Because let's be real, keeping up appearances is exhausting.