Living as more than labels

The new movie “The Duff” tackles the topic of youth pecking orders. Bianca (played by Mae Whitman) finds out other students at her high school think of her as a “Duff,” or “Designated Ugly Fat Friend”—someone kept around by more popular and physically attractive people to make themselves look good. With her confidence shaken, Bianca persuades her friend Wesley (Robbie Arnell) to “reverse-Duff” her so she won’t end up, in her words, “a dateless weirdo.” Ultimately, despite the scorn of the school’s most popular pretty girl Madison (Bella Thorne), Bianca learns the importance of being herself and discovers that everyone faces insecurities. Everyone, the film says, is someone’s Duff.

The Duff is based on a novel written by Kody Keplinger at age 17. When the book was published in 2010, Keplinger said in an interview: “I have never met a girl who didn’t feel labeled as something, even if the label was only in her head … Sometimes others label us, and sometimes we label ourselves. It’s sad and frustrating, but I think that’s one thing we all have in common.”

No “Duffs” in God’s sight

Even if they haven’t seen the movie or read the book, teens should have no trouble relating to the topic of labels. Labeling can be especially intense, and intensely felt, during adolescence. As youth work to establish their sense of identity, labels mislead by reducing them to no more than a physical attribute or to only one of many personality traits. Labels also mislead about other people, giving us excuses not to get to know them as the unique individuals they are.

Teenagers need to hear and believe that God looks beyond human labels to see and love us as we are, and they need to experience that acceptance in the church. When youth identify themselves first and foremost as God’s children, they are empowered to resist reductive labels applied to them and will be less likely to apply those labels to others.

Question of the day: What nicknames or labels do your friends wear, and why?
Focal Scriptures: 1 Samuel 17:24-37; Luke 7:36-50; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

For a complete lesson on this topic visit LinC.

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