My Story: a Name and Its Power

Continuing in the “name vein,” I thought I’d share more thoughts on the impact a name can have. In The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan said, “Names have power.” And how right he may be. No more power than we allow them to have, but we can grant them as much power over ourselves as we please.

“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.” ~ W. C. Fields

A little more of my own story…

When I first walked on the chilly Pacific Northwest shore one summer, I was reminded of my name. Powerful, crashing waves pounded the beach. I didn’t dare go close. Each foamy swell seemed icier and more overwhelming than the last. Too much, I thought. Am I too much?

Waves have rhythm and pattern, like breathing. In and out. As the tides play, the waves on the beach move to the music. Far away, low tide pianissimo ripples contrast the astounding high tide crescendo crashes! Snapshot visits to the shore won’t reveal the cycle. Only repeated and extended time offers a big picture view of the tide’s reliable nature. I didn’t live near the beach, so my experience taught me waves were too unpredictable. I remember thinking, Am I unpredictable?

At some point I was introduced to symbolism, and that tended to add confusing layers to meaning. When I learned that white often suggested purity, I wrestled with something new. With a few more years’ worth of water under the bridge and a string of tough life choices, pure waves couldn’t possibly be an option. After all that has happened to me and all I’ve done, I’m anything but pure!

By then, I’d attended Life University and taken Experience 301. Overwhelming waves pounded my soul, and finally “White Wave” crashed.

I like the W.C. Fields quote above. Think about it; we give power to our name. We choose to come or go or obey in response to it when we are very young. Soon enough we become familiar with the power of the added middle name. (Doesn’t that add just a bit of emphasis and heft when it’s said just the right way?) We all know the way we hear our name makes all the difference. Have you heard your name said in a particular way that evokes strong emotion? It could be any where on the spectrum—love, joy, frustration, even anger. Suddenly layers of meaning pile onto a word or two.

In our individual development something begins to happen. Our thoughts, words, and actions become part of who we are. Likes, dislikes, and choices become part of the package that is our identity. Our name is the bow on the outside that ties it all up, the first thing a someone sees and gently tugs to open the gift that is us.

I chose names for my children that rolled off the tongue easily because I knew whatever I picked might be the most frequent puff of air to escape my lips. I knew it would be the most frequently heard and written word for their whole lives. It made sense to think about each name carefully. The frequency would increase the load a name would carry. When my sons’ names were spoken, heard, and signed, I wanted a gentle reminder to drift through their minds.

In the previous post I thought about the meaning of a name—but really—there will be identity attached to every name (whatever the meaning). Have you thought about the package decorated with a “name bow” that is you? Maybe you’ve had moments to think about who you were in connection to your name, but maybe you haven’t. Your name is more than letters on a page. Try describing the identity that has become attached to your name. Did you ever wrestle with your identity? Do you like who you are? Would you change anything about it? What is precious about your identity to you?

Thanks for reading along. I’d love to read your thoughts here in the comments…

~jennifer

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