REFLECTION: Who’s afraid of labelling? PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 14 November 2014 14:27

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

 

Well, I used to be afraid of being labelled. But I think I have licked that fear off. I just smile and continue to talk, write or communicate to clarify things if there are things that need clarification. As long as the channels of communication are open, I am game to be labelled anything.

I have been branded before as conservative, of the ultra kind, a rightist, a traditionalist, etc. But I have also heard some people consider me as liberal, left-leaning, progressive. More than anything else, I just get amused by all this. I suppose it’s part of the enigma that each one of us actually is.

As long as it is not name-calling, I actually don’t mind this labelling and branding. And even if it is a case of name-calling or some form of verbal abuse, I try to remind myself as promptly as possible to follow Christ’s indication to offer the other cheek. What would I get if I react tit for tat? I would just worsen the situation.

I know pretty well that our tendency to brand, label or stereotype people is our way of understanding a person or an issue, or coping with a particular situation. Thus, branding and labelling is something to be expected.

I think we cannot and should not go around telling people not label anyone. We would have more success with a carabao learning math than with prohibiting people from labelling. That would be forcing us to live in a certain utopia. And sad to say, we seem to have a fondness for that. We tend to escape reality and enter into the world of denial when we are faced with its warts and imperfections. I think this is not healthy.

Especially when we are dealing with matters very open to opinions and a wide range of interpretations, as in politics and social issues, not mention, delicate matters of faith, it should not surprise us that in our effort to simplify things, we tend to label and brand people and the positions they espouse.

Well, that’s a given and we just have to sort them out as calmly and soberly as possible. No need to go ballistic, not even to feel bad nor to harbour some resentment. Truth and fairness will just come out sooner or later. Charity should always rule, because in the end that is what is essential and indispensable to us.

In our exchanges, we have to expect some misunderstandings and misinterpretations, some rash judgments, fallacious arguments, disproportionate emotional reactions and outburst, etc. We ourselves can commit them. We just have to be ready for them. It’s not the end of the world, mind you.

We need to have a firm hold of our emotions, because they often spoil our dialogues. They are like little children who have very limited capacity to understand things. They are extremely choosy, if not capricious, traits that never would figure well in any conversation.

We also need to be very open-minded. We have to respect everyone’s right to express his views no matter how wrong they are or are simply very different from ours. Let reason dominate, rather than feelings. This way we can easily distinguish and appreciate the different biases, preferences and options of people.

But most importantly, let’s always be charitable, even to the point of imitating Christ when he was sentenced to be crucified. He just remained quiet before all the false accusations hurled on him.

For this, we also need the required elements of humility, simplicity, etc. I feel that only in this way can manage to negotiate the very tricky road of understanding and loving one another, and of resolving our unavoidable differences.

We also have to learn the art of talking and communicating properly, which can include the skill of choosing the right words, the right tone, the right timing. We need to be well-grounded on the truth that ultimately comes from our faith.

Of course, the art of communication should also include the skill of forming the proper argumentations and discussion. It should also include the sensitivity to keep quiet. In this regard, it is very helpful to reflect on the silence of Christ when he was wrongly judged and sentenced. Many mysterious lessons can be gained from it.

I think we should not make a big fuss about this issue of labelling and branding. We do it all the time. We can even call ourselves Catholics and Christians, but can we really say we are truly Catholics and Christians? Perhaps, yes. Perhaps, not. What’s clear is that we are always a work in progress.