This sermon was written by and published for Brenna :
One of the most bizarre memories I have of school was when I was about 15 and I was asked “So what’s your thing?”
I had no idea what the girl was talking about, and given that it was my first day at a new school, I was a little terrified. Realizing I had no clue what she was referring to she explained. “You know, like which group are you with?”
In the school that I had just come from there were of course groups of girls who were close friends but there never seemed to be an underlying theme that unified the cliques. No labels to define groups as athletes or popular or rebels… arriving at my new school, I was suddenly required to have a group. A theme. A label. A label was supposed to be my Identity.
Because I had no “label” of my own choosing I was teased and ignored at first, but my persistence at getting to know people meant I was quickly assigned the rank of “The new girl who doesn’t understand how these things work”, and permitted by my peers (as something of a novelty I think) to flit between the groups and befriend various people regardless of what their “thing was”. An unusual notion as there was a real culture of “Them and Us”. There were many times where I thought it would be easier to settle into a group and accept an identity defining what I was, but I always seemed resistant.
It was only years later that I realized how lucky I was to not have picked a group and settled in. I had a conversation with a friend shortly before a reunion where she said to me “You always seemed so ok with yourself, while the rest of us were desperately trying to show the world who we thought we were.” I didn’t really understand what she meant until the reunion itself where I met many of my former classmates still attempting to hold onto the identities created in those groups, despite clearly having outgrown them or them not being “real” in the first place.
I was particularly struck by a woman who had spent her life since leaving school collecting labels and ranks. She was Wife, Mother, Chair Person, Anxiety Suffer, Secretary, Weight Loser, and Unhappily Married. Every aspect of her life was part of a group and a label. Something by which she identified herself as a person. And it was clear that despite having so many ways to define herself, she had absolutely no idea who she was. She had mistaken the hat of each position, as the essence of her Self.
And she was so busy performing the role of each label that there was no time in her life to explore and actually live.
Belonging is something that we crave as people. It’s part of our instincts. But it is also an instinct based in fear. The fear of rejection, the fear of being alone, the fear of not being loved. We can sometimes seek, in our fear, to define ourselves in a way that other people of a group will accept us for, but in the process, we can stifle ourselves.
In the Temple we have a whole collection of labels to chose from, groups to belong to and ranks to acquire. Jedi, Sith, Grey aspect, Novice, Initiate, Apprentice, Knight, Clergy etc, and it’s easy to become invested in the names that we chose for ourselves and the implications we believe they have on who we are.
By accepting or rejecting certain labels we both expand and constrict ourselves. With each rank and label we acquire, we risk defining ourselves within that identity, and creating divides between ourselves, and those who are not in “our group”. We risk becoming the label, rather than being the person that is developing behind it.
Much like in Watts “game of black and white” if I identify myself as one thing, then I cannot be another. I can restrict my own exploration of self by confusing what I do as being who I am. In the process of busily being part of the “group” we can forget that each label is simply a name for where we are at this moment in time.
No label can possibly explain or define the infinite possibility of your Self and what you are capable of, and identifying with a label does that Self a disservice. It makes it smaller, less bright, less real.
You are not a label, a rank or a group.