Category Archives: labels lie


By Artby Jade:

Listening as the world goes by,

I see a blur.

Cars flying by.

The noise I hear just a slur.








“Good for nothing.”

“A Slut.”

To the heart, each word does cut.

A childlike faith cut off too soon.

Judgements that taint innocence to gloom.

The myth is busted,

because it’s not only sticks and stones

anymore that can break our bones.

We don’t realize

what our words jeopardize.

The price

our two-edged tongue can slice in one‘s life.

Each word brings one down,

closer to the ground,

heaping up the mound.

These words create doubt

about what we are about.

They scream out insecurity…

drowning out purity.

They often cause the sincere heart

to hide and dodge a painful dart.

The real life is camouflaged

to the status quo,

leaving us to ponder who is a friend and who is a faux?

We step back to hide from the attack.

Yet you may never know why I walk the way I do;

You’ve never tried on anothers’ shoe.

You may never see

who this persons destined to be.

You just shout out a mocking name.

You may not even purpose to name,

yet, the results are the same.

It’s the pride of man on display.

Others think it’s okay

to do what you do.

They now make fun too.

You’ve built yourself up.

You’ve shown others wassup.

The leader of the pack,

take a step back.

You’re “fly,”

but labels lie.

Yet some words can stick until they die.

It reduces a person of depth and meaning

to a word mimicked in playground teasing.


What’s meant for a can

shouldn’t be used on a man.

This lifes contents can’t be canned.

They can’t be judged on demand.

I’m jumping out of the box

as the clock tocks.

I won’t be confused, reduced, recycled, or reused.

I am unique, special and true.

I’m through.

You know what they say, “Your rubber. I’m glue.

Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks…”

Wait, what’s the next part?

Oh yeah, “To you?”

Well, now what good would that do?

What a hypocrite I would be.

In forgiveness, I too, want you to be free…

A bird out of a cage,

ridden of rage.

To be a “tough” one no more,

But able to adore.

Labels replaced…

individually embraced.

May you be blind to see all but the unique beauty of humanity.

Cans only in the store. Each life is worth so much more.



Deadbeats don’t take care of their children. They neglect them when they’re around, skip child support payments, forget birthdays, and make life miserable for the other parent. They’re the worst kind of degenerate; they’re total scum.

Or so many of us believe. Sometimes about others, sometimes about ourselves.

There’s no doubt that children need caring for. Kids are precious to us, and few things unite us as a society like defending them. So the subject of “deadbeats” is understandably a touchy one.

The problem with labels like “deadbeat” is that, while they pertain to important issues, they don’t do anything to solve problems. We say them in anger — it feels good to utter them — and so we’re tricked into thinking we’ve accomplished something, when we’ve actually done nothing at all.

Like all Labels, this one is more than just an adjective. Labels make problems seem insurmountable and people appear unreachable. They’re used to dismiss people, not reach out to them.

Worse, there is no “fair” way to apply them, and no easy way to erase them once they’re misapplied. Sometimes we even make ourselves the target, proclaiming ourselves deadbeats when we don’t “measure up.”

If someone is shirking their responsibilities, don’t depend on a Label to remedy the situation. And if you feel inadequate, seek out the help of others rather than a self-imposed judgement. Choose actions over words, dialogue over dismissal, and love over labelling. When the problem is with people, the solution will be through people.

Labels: Don’t use them. Don’t accept them.


It’s exciting to see the vigorous and challenging discussions that have happened during our Labels Lie series. The final images are chosen to ellicit a response and get people thinking, and a lot of work has gone into their creation.

We’re excited to present an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the Labels Lie series. We also got to sit down with Ed McGowan, the talented photographer behind the images, and talk about his own experiences with Labels. Check out the video above, and the interview below!

Have you ever been labeled? If so, what were the labels? How did they affect you?

I grew up as an army brat. I probably went to at least 10 schools growing up. I was always the “new kid.” Kids can be cruel and it’s never easy to break in to established friendship circles. I think for me, it made me a shy person.

What stood out the most to you in doing this project?

The realization that labels really affect people to the point where it molds who they are. They start to believe it, and unless told otherwise, go on believing it.

What would you tell someone who has been labeled?

I would tell them that the only opinion that matters is their own. The trick is to convince them of it.

What do you identify the most with in People of the Second Chance?

That the message is a constant reminder of self worth and the worth of others.


If you’re a photographer, click here to read a great post by Ed McGowan about the shoot setup, lighting, lens, textures, etc.


By Ashley Smith:

When we first began the conversation about LABELS LIE, I was profoundly moved by each story and response. I realized that I was not alone in the shame, pain and ghosts of past labels. It was unsettling and motivating… and showed me the power of judgment, love, grace and healing. The conversation also reminded me of the beginning of my journey of studying human behavior in college. It brought back the theories that illuminated my personal journey to learn more about society and me.

That journey in college, through studying past research, actually showed me more about my self-identity and why I chose the behavioral patterns I did or do. I wanted to share one particular sociological theory that I believe relates directly to the LABELS LIE campaign.


The consequences of being labeled can chance the trajectory of a person’s life, and usually negatively, we know this not because it is some magical thought, but through years of research and through human behavior patterns.

People have a profound impact on how we view life, reality, behavior and our self-identity.  We see with social research with several sociological, psychological and communication theories, that through the use of symbolic interaction (language), we are in an ongoing game of charades, but in how it relates to us. We exchange meaning in the way we communicate to each other- through symbol use.

George Herbert Mead showed in 1934 how infants come to know persons first and only later come to know things. He asserted that our concept of self /personality is composed of self-awareness and self-image (both highly influenced by people).

Furthermore, he argued that the self-image is constructed of ideas about WHAT WE THINK OTHERS ARE THINKING ABOUT US.

Our self-identity and possible behaviors may be determined/influenced by the terms used to describe or classify us.

Through the Looking Glass Theory, we see that we are shaped by what we see in other people reflected back about who we are.

Simply put, the labels we use for people may dramatically influence their perception of self and further influencing their behavior. People may even act more deviant based on the label. Sometimes, the labeled individual incorporates the label in their concept of self.

When labels are used, they are constructing someone’s reality.

Additionally, social research has found that people who accept labeling of others have a difficult time changing their judgment or opinion about the person, despite evidence to the contrary. That means, being the label maker also profoundly impacts reality, too. It could correlate to judgement, hate and long time fallacies.

So what does all this research mean?

Labels stick and are enduring… and have the power to help construct someone’s self identity, label maker or person with the label. It’s a cycle that feeds the negative and deviant. It rewards the hate and stifles hope and grace. It leaves little to no room for positive change or restoration. Labels are not flexible nor do they grow, they are definitive and untrue.

This campaign is more than just shocking images to me, it is the beginning of breaking a long lasting cycle.


How can we break the cycle?

Spread TRUTH. Do the research. See the infinite value and possibility in someone first, celebrate them for being simply alive. Affirm the life in each of us, give room for change and new beginnings. Spread HOPE everywhere you go. Leave traces of GRACE. Set someone up to WIN.

More LABELS LIE images here



Labels are a violation.

Somewhere, sometime, someone spoke words over you, and their lies and violation cut deep. You believed them, and became painfully labeled and shamed.

Today, it’s time to identify the label maker, the person who we allowed to label us. We are going to stare down that shame until it dissolves into the nothing it is… no label stands a chance in the light of our worth.

We are going to put a name to the wound… we can’t truly heal till we know why it’s there in the first place. Who said it? Who put the label there? Was it once? Over and over again? Either way, it was carved into us. We are going to choose to be free from the lie of the toxic label, we are going to choose truth.

Let’s as a community of grace talk about them. Wrestle with them. And let’s all be brave in confronting our label maker. This is a safe place.

Let’s agree stop the violation today, with each of us… and speak up when we see it happening, even casually. We are not going to sit there and accept it anymore. We will not allow lying, hurtful words to carve meaning into identity. We are going to believe in the truth of who we are – beautiful, loved, accepted and free.


Picture this:

Its a sunny day and your windows are down, cool breeze blowing as you cruise down the highway, enjoying the start to another summer adventure.

But as you stop at a light, alongside pulls up a young tanned man in a curvy red muscle car, and he’s blasting the LOUDEST, RAUNCHIEST song you have ever heard. You’re not sure what’s worse: the song itself, or the fact that he’s completely oblivious to the people around him.

“Prick,” you mumble to yourself as you roll up your window and glare as long as you’ll dare. “He’s on steroids, no doubt. I bet he can barely afford that car. In fact, it’s probably stolen. Think he hits his girlfriend? Yeah, he looks like the type. Man I wish I had some of my buddies with me…”

Wait … what? How did you get there? You went from raunchy music to wanting to beat up an abusive boyfriend car thief in the span of 15 seconds. Why? Because you allowed yourself to define him by a label. That’s what labels do, after all.

How many assumptions did we make about the guy in this story? 4? Even you, reader, probably have a picture in your head. Hair, clothes, face … without any of that part of the picture even being painted. When we mutter “prick” at someone under our breath, we construct a whole life story for someone. We dismiss someone as a slur … a vulgar stereotype.

Labels lie, even the smallest ones we whisper quietly to ourselves. Not only do they hurt others, they rot our soul. First we whisper, then we shout, and finally we stop using our voice and move on to something worse.

Instead, let’s choose grace. It isn’t always fair, and it isn’t always easy, but it is right. Of course the world doesn’t revolve around a rude guy and his raunchy music, but it neither does it revolve around us.


By Jeremy Statton:

I have a friend who is a used car salesman, a label that nobody wants.

I was helping my mother buy a car. She is a widow, and my dad used to take care of everything for her. When he lost his battle to cancer 13 years ago, the job was handed over to me.

When I walked in the store with her, I made my mission very clear: “I am here to take care of my mother, who is a widow and has a budget. How can you help me?” I asked the salesman.

We found a car we thought would be perfect. Slightly used. Low mileage. Good starting price. Plus it was blue, which was important to her.

The car had just come in and wasn’t ready to show yet. The manager told me his price, saying that he didn’t feel like he could come down much more. I would come back in a few days and we could settle on a final number then.

When I came by, the manager was out that day, so the salesman gave us the write up. It was $2000 cheaper than the previous price.  “We’ll take it!” I said without hesitation. I couldn’t believe it. It seemed to good to be true.

It was.

The manager called the next day explaining the mistake. Apparently, one of the basics of selling cars is that you never offer it for less than you’re actually allowed to sell it for.

I was angry. How dare they offer me that price and take it away? What kind of business are they running?  I felt I had been lied to. I was going to make him pay, or rather make him let me pay less.

Determined to get the lower price, I equipped myself with the ammunition necessary to win. I armed myself with a label.

“I thought this dealership was different. I thought you had class. Apparently you are just like any other used car salesman.”

I was going to use that label to get what I wanted. Nothing else mattered to me, certainly not the person at the other end of the label.   But thankfully, I didn’t actually say it. I wanted to, but before I could pull it out of my arsenal, I took the time to listen.

It turns out our use of labels is often based on what we want out of another person and not in an actual truth about that person.

As he explained, I realized it was an honest mistake. I understood that he is just like me. He was new at this position and his boss is a hard man. If he let this car go at that price he would likely lose his job.

He wasn’t just a man selling used cars, but a person with a family and a mortgage. He was doing the best he could, but like all of us, he messed up.

Used car salesmen, on the other hand, sell junk and call it a bargain. They cheat and lie their way to success, taking advantage of the ignorant. It is a label that you earn through hard work — but not through honest mistakes.

I had two choices. To label and win … or to forgive. To show grace. To allow him the second chance of negotiating the price.

I paid $1500 more than the mistake price. I wish he would have let me pay more for it.  I lost the negotiations, but I gained something better. A relationship. A friendship with a used car salesman, made possible through a second chance.


Every one of us has a story to tell.  It’s taken a lifetime to write, and has more characters, plot lines, and twists than any other book written.  Our stories are complex, and when someone asks us to tell it, we often don’t even know where to start.

So why is it that, when we see someone with a certain style of dress, or a certain type of car, or a certain address, we think we can sum their story up into one tidy statement?

He’s poor.  She’s trashy.  They’re so ghetto.

We’ve all thought it, and we’ve probably even said it before.  But we also know better.

You looked at a proof of this image last week and saw labels like “poor,” “not good enough,” and “trashy.”  We heard your hearts on this one, and hope you’ll join us in rejecting these hurtful labels.

This is the last image in this Labels Lie portrait series, but the campaign is far from over. Expect even more from #labelslie in the near future, and join us in making this a year of Second Chances.

Join us by sharing these images, creating conversations online and donating a tweet. We would also want to hear your honest and raw stories of how #labelslie in your life.

These are the images we’ve shared during the series.  We refuse to accept them.  We refuse to use them.


Posted by Mike Foster:

If you’re a photographer, creative or like behind-the-scenes stuff, this video is for you.

So our friend Aaron Kim shot a behind-the-scenes video of the planning, production and creation of the Labels Lie campaign.


If you’re a photographer, click here to read a great post by Ed McGowan about the shoot setup, lighting, lens, textures, etc.

And here is a list of some of the crazy awesome people who volunteered their time to make this project a HUGE success:

Ed McGowan: Photographer/Design
Amy Clarke and Dianna Lopez: Hair and Makeup
Megan Foster: Special Effects Makeup
Aaron Kim: Video

Ashley Smith, Kristen Foster and Becca Carroll: Project Management
PlainJoe Studios: Brand Development

Photo Subjects:
Steve Jewel, Jennifer Felix, Rudy Felix, Amy Barnes, Brandon Crouch, Danny Bias, Jenn Salini, Ethan Smith, Jackson Foster, Breanne McLendon, Kirk Langsea, Laura Milner, Daniel Milner and Stephanie Cassetto.

The Labels Lie project is far from over. More portraits are coming plus a brand new Labels Lie series of provocative visuals in early 2012.


1. Tweet this declaration: “I believe Labels Lie. Don’t use them. Don’t accept them! #LabelsLie #potsc”

2. Donate a Tweet to our Labels Lie campaign.


Posted by Mike Foster:
(This portrait is part of the Labels Lie Campaign. Please share.)

Most of us will never forget the hurtful things that were said to us as children.

Words of shame. Verbal abuse. The screaming and yelling. Forever branded by the uncensored words that were spoken by insensitive parents, relatives, friends, classmates or teachers. The labels hurt and they leave a mark.

Supposedly we just move on and grow up and we live our lives and that’s that. But I’m not so sure.

In doing research for the Labels Lie campaign I listened to your stories. Stories of pain. Stories of people trapped by harsh and critical words from their childhood.

Recently, I read an article about a man convicted of murder. He shared how when he was a child his alcoholic Mother looked him in the eyes and said straight to his face, “If I would of had the 50 bucks I would of aborted you. But now I’m stuck with you.” I can only imagine how that horrific moment played a part in shaping his eventual future.

The Labels Lie campaign is about dealing with the ugly things we believe about ourselves. And for many that starts with branded messages of our childhood.

So maybe today we could acknowledge what was said and done to us as kids. And with courage we can refuse to allow it to have power over us. Perhaps if we faced the lie of the label, we could finally be freed from it.

And maybe for parents and adults, this is a reminder to be softer with the things we say to our children.

For others, this is a reminder that bullying of children is unacceptable in all forms whether it comes from an adult or a classmate. If you’re doing that, it must stop now.

Labels Lie. Don’t Accept Them. Don’t Use Them.

I would love to hear your thoughts.