What is in a name? The ancient Egyptians believed that the name of a person carried their essence, the quality of their personality. Wisdom literature tells us that names are important. Choosing names for children still sells thousands of books a year. Many people carefully determine a child’s name not just on the basis of how it sounds, but what it means or the legacy of someone they want to honor in this new life.
When my wife and I named our children, we were very specific about them. Our oldest is Sarah, who is princess because she was a gift; a princess to us. Our son is David Benjamin. The Benjamin was more my doing than my wife’s decision. She wanted Jonathan, but I was studying Hebrew at the time…David (the beloved) Benjamin (son of the right hand). Since we would have two children then…a boy and girl…these were important names for us. We wanted to name them not just out of the air, but with tags that would travel with them over a lifetime.
Names are important as identifiers, but they also precede us and carry identifying qualities. Marketers know that brand names are important because most people will buy something without delving into comparative quality simply based on the name and the reputation that goes along with it. Marketers are banking on that association of name and purchase.
People of history are also summed up in their names. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and others carry their histories in their names. Rosa Park, Martin Luther King, Jr., Florence Nightingale and JFK (initials only!) carry their histories, too. We feel something about these names. These identifiers elicit emotion and a reaction just by uttering them.
So, what does your name convey? What goes along with this identifier that is tagged to you? The Hebrew word for name refers to our reputation. Our names reveal our reputation. When people think of you and your name, what goes along with it? Do their experiences with you bring delight, fond memories, laughter, a sense of character or trustworthiness when they hear your name? Or does hearing your name cause people to roll their eyes, whisper to others behind cupped hands, or distrust whatever might be said by you?
Proverbs of the Old Testament says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” If we carry a good name, people will recall us—even in some distant time when we are no longer alive—with admiration and respect. But if your name carries all that is unpleasant you will be labeled with distain regardless of what you thought about yourself (and it will last beyond your ability to make any changes to that perception).
“Your reputation precedes you” is a great movie line. But it is a line that could be spoken every day when people met you. What do you want to go ahead of you? What do you want people to believe about you when they hear your name? You can craft this in how you live every day. If you want your name to be filled with integrity, character, delight, and a host of other identifiers you can choose to build that reputation by how you act in every encounter.
Silver and gold come and go; we know that in today’s economy. Wealth is gained, lost, spent, and forgotten over generations. But your name, your reputation, will be the record in someone’s memory of who you were and what you contributed to life. What do you want your name to carry with it both now and into the future? You can choose to create that legacy today; and it is a choice.
Blessings to you as you craft a reputation of joy, encouragement, and living well through the tag of your name. Grace and peace.