By naming things, we create a reality. People and things become what we name them.
The very moment that we assign names and labels to people and things, we breathe independent life into them, quickly forgetting that we created them in the first place. We project power on our creations and allow ourselves to be defined and ruled by them. We become convinced we are what we are named. We become convinced that others are what we have labeled them, oblivious to the danger that comes with exercising our genius for using words to create truth.
Because the truth is that when we label, we distort reality and deceive ourselves. We no longer see the world and the person as they existed before we named them.
Often we are clearer and more knowledgeable about the abstractions we have invented than we are about ourselves. When this happens, we believe the names we give to people, events and activities are reality. For example, we believe that a corporation or organization has a heart, a soul, flesh and blood, that it possesses its own will and purpose. We are convinced that visions, programs and strategies, all invented by our words, have the inherent power to transform people and institutions.
By seeing people as “the organization,” they lose their histories, dreams and choices. By seeing people as targets of change waiting to be transformed by our leadership or new programs, we seriously delude ourselves. Absorbed in our manipulation, we focus attention where it will be futile.
We enter the Land of Oz – a land of imagined omniscience or omnipotence. In this land, everything changes simply by calling it what we choose: a watch becomes a heart, a diploma becomes intellect and a medal becomes courage.
What is real is the flesh and blood of a person. We find them standing before us with their history, dreams and possibilities. If we want change, we must engage this person, not some abstraction we have created.