The Words That Divide Us

To be honest, I am (somewhat ironically) struggling to find the words to do this concept justice 😂

But what the hell, let’s give it a whirl!

Have you ever heard the saying “The pen is mightier than the sword”?

Not only is this statement fundamentally true, but the depth to which it is true is absolutely incredible, and I’d wager it’s something very, very few have thought about at a deep enough level.

Words are tools…but also weapons…and chains.

They have true, and in some ways virtually limitless, POWER.

And the vast majority of humanity wield their words like a toddler with a stick, all gusto, no grace.

But there is far, far more to the power and depth of words than meets the eye…so let’s dig deeper.

At the most simple, a word is energy. It’s one or more sound waves to which at least one person has attached something mental (meaning, emotions, visual imagery, etc.)

It is an energetic label, if you will.

When two or more people agree that certain sounds mean certain things, you have the beginnings of language and, with a bit of luck, more effective communication.

The more labels people can agree on, the more easily they can communicate. The more people who agree on those labels, the better they can cooperate.

Society as we know it is a direct byproduct of our ability to label things, to use language to communicate and cooperate.

And this is great…up to a point.

In small tightly knit groups, where everyone’s day-to-day experience is closely aligned, and where experiences and exposure to things is rather narrow, and most see largely eye-to-eye, those labels can be pretty straightforward.

But what happens when groups grow too large? When each individual experience differs significantly, where different cultures and geographies and thoughts mix? Things begin to diverge, sometimes wildly.

The problem is that there very well may be no such thing as objective reality. No two people are experiencing “reality” in exactly the same way.

A perfect example you’re probably familiar with, The Dress:

Blue Gold Dress GIF

Was the dress black and blue, or gold and white? (I saw black and blue, if you care to know)

But the correct answer is both, depending on the viewer and their mind.

As I said, no objective reality.

Sounds crazy, I know, but bear with me.

Here’s one that’s auditory (as you listen, think to yourself either the word Brainstorm, or Green Needle, you’ll hear whichever you’re actively thinking of):


And this is especially true when it comes to words.

A word has a dictionary definition, the “agreed upon” meaning in a specific language.

This meaning can change though, based on time, location, group, and individual.

This is a big deal in particular when reading things that were written, or hearing things that were spoken, in a distant time and place.

This is a BIG reason why many things in ancient religious texts are misunderstood (translation errors, cultural differences, different meanings and interpretations, etc. etc.).

For example, attaching meanings to numbers is a big element of the Hebrew language. 40 for example could represent a period of judgement, a period of major change, or even just “a really long time”. 40 years in the desert = a really, really long punishment/trial. 40 days fasting = a really long period of struggle.

The number 3 means whole/complete, 7 means perfection, 6 an imperfect number (just shy of perfection). Number of the devil, 666 = imperfection (6) repeated 3 times (complete), or Completely Imperfect. More or less.

An enormous amount of what is in the Bible is NOT meant to be literal. At all. A lot is metaphorical, and a lot had specific meanings to one culture at one point in time.

If you’re reading it (especially if you read a bastardized translation like some of the new ones, lol), and you’re taking it literally, you have really, really missed the mark.

What you read and interpret is likely NOT what was originally meant, and that’s a big problem…not just in religion, but in many times many areas of life.

Here’s a fun example: If I say the word Cupcake, what comes to mind for you? What do you think of? What do you feel? What memories or smells or thoughts arise?

I asked my wife this, and she said her first thought was of some big dude saying “Hey Cupcake”, and then of someone naming a little dog Cupcake.

My first thought was a standard vanilla/vanilla cupcake with sprinkles.


Alas, I’m not really a big fan of cupcakes. Sorry not sorry. Ice cream though, mmmm…but I digress.

I said one word, Cupcake, but we each pictured something very different. The word generated different visual imagery, different meaning, different emotions. It was not the same for both of us. I imagine you pictured and felt and thought something different from both of us.

And THIS is the core way in which language divides us. No matter what one person is saying, everyone else hearing them is having a slightly (or maybe wildly) different experience in their mind.


Because a word isn’t just the definition in the dictionary. It’s all of the experiences, memories, emotions, and mental imagery you’ve attached to that word in your head.

You can think of each word as a node, a bit of scaffolding to which we attach things (this is how the brain works, tagging and interconnecting things across many variables).

Many words (maybe most) are mentally modified in a unique way for each individual…and that makes clear and consistent person-to-person communication HARD.

And that’s just for normal everyday language.

But what about purposefully divisive labels?

Religious labels. Political labels. Social labels.

Loaded labels.

We call these Loaded, because we know they’re loaded with a lot of mental shit that isn’t in the dictionary 😁

These are the words that, more than any other, are potential weapons and should be used with great care.

They can be used to unite…but in the same stroke they can be used to divide. But all too often those divisions are illusory.

Rabbit God vs. Duck God

Let me give you one specific example of a divisive yet illusory label, one that may offend a lot of people…


Here’s the deal…Race doesn’t fundamentally exist.

There isn’t a black race or a brown race or a white race, just the good old human race.

If you remember your basic biology, we have: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.

Our Species is Homo Sapiens.

Skin color is an evolutionary variation based on the sun exposure and thus melanin production of our ancestors. Less intense sun exposure, lighter skin. More intense sun exposure, darker skin.

Inherently, it means nothing, other than perhaps your risk for skin cancer.

But a label like Race was created as a tool, a “polite” way to say Not Like Us. Different. Beneath us.

It was made to be divisive, and to allow one group to feel, and act, superior over another. A label of justification.

And it’s absolute fucking bullshit.

Skin color is real. Culture is real. People have different skin tones and come from different ethnic backgrounds.

But there is no race, not really, and the sooner we stop thinking and treating it as real, the better.

Because here’s the real problem…people have adopted these labels, accepted them, and allow themselves to be defined by them, controlled by them, and thus trapped by them.

Labels are meant to separate things, to categorize and break things apart. To differentiate.

There is no racism per se, there is just another flavor of different-ism.

Not Like Us 😞

As always, the antiquated human brain is tribal, focused on Us vs. Them, fearful and distrusting of anything different. And it’s just a big fat pile of outdated mental bullshit. (I’ve written about this one before.)

Really stop and think about this for a second…what labels do you identify with? What labels have been attached to you? What labels have you accepted without thought?

This matters, a LOT, because the labels you accept, and identify with, become your chains.

So for the love of fuck, stop accepting those bullshit labels! Don’t identify with them, at all.

I’m not “white”, or “Caucasian”, I’m HUMAN. I’m not “American”, or “Texan”, I’m an Earthling.

I’m not a Democrat, or Republican. I’m not Christian or Atheist.

I am a Curious Human of Earth, a Seeker of Truth.

I am very, very careful about what labels I accept and attach to. The vast majority I discard. Some I fight against.

And I do not allow others to assign labels to me.

No, Nelson Mandela didn’t actually say this, some other dude did, but the attribution to Mandela is amusing, so I left it as I found it 😂

If you want not just freedom, but to make our world the best place it can possibly be, you MUST learn to choose your words carefully, you MUST consider their impact from the perspective of others (as much as you can), and you MUST be incredibly, supremely careful about what labels you accept and attach to.

Language, labels, can be truly beautiful. Meaningful. Useful.

But they can also be hurtful, horrifying, and infinitely hateful.

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

So please, choose your words, and your labels, wisely.

If you enjoyed this, you can listen to a podcast episode I recorded based on this post:


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Sam McRoberts

Author of Screw the Zoo. CEO of VUDU Marketing.