Personal identifiers are apparently now perceived far differently than I was always led to believe. A name was something to take pride in, live up to and share as a way of making connections.
However it seems, especially as we emerge into our ‘post pandemic” realities. That must no longer be the case. We’ll explore why names matter, on this edition of “Becoming Today”.
We can look back through history and see that names have been held in esteem.
For example, JFK, we don’t even need to use his full name to recognize him, said, “ Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names”.
Shakespeare asked the same question I posed, more than 500 years ago, answering it with
Another line of thought, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.
Well before the bard, Solomon wrote of how “A good name is rather to be chosen than riches”.
And even Confucius says “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name”.
Call things by their proper name.
That’s a lesson that seems lost. In this era of “branding” and people being urged to create their “personal brand”, it seems too many have been sold on the idea that it is more than a name. You can still have slogans and mottos along with a name to further identify but still central to the concept should be a name.
Besides I believe a brand is something that is forced up some and has been used to show who you are owned by rather than who you are and what you represent.
McDonald’s is a name that represents to the world what they do.
Branding is “the action of marking with a branding iron”. Like cattle to protect ownership. Like was done to slaves or even as the TV show “Yellowstone” shows to retain ownership over an individual.
With those images in mind maybe you can see the wisdom in addressing someone by their name and aspiring for your name to mean something rather than being branded as to how others want you to be seen or try to take ownership over you.
I bring this up, because names and the use of or the refusal to use them is part of an ongoing disturbing trend that has led to people being more divided.
Now there are some that want that to be. Segregated, divided, kept apart, distant are things that enable those who for their own often nefarious purposes seek to misinform, practice disinformation or are desiring to control people rather than serve them.
I stand in direct opposition to those individuals and in support of those seeking to empower, support and uplift.
Unfortunately many of the groups that claim to be seeking to help, disciple or assist people have been learning towards the negative. Since the waning days of the last century, this has become a very common trend that has been dispiriting and serves only to keep the doors closed to others.
Churches are not supposed to be exclusive clubs, yet too many times I’ve been involved in conversations like this, just random occurrences while shopping or running errands.
Random individuals say something to start what they apparently perceive as a discussion, followed by,
“…oh our church is just wonderful! I’m so busy there.”
“Really that’s nice. What are you involved in?”
“Oh I do this and I do that and we are helping so many people.”
“So you have a strong membership?”
“Oh yes, it’s just wonderful!”
Then they walk away.
I have even encountered one woman in a similar scenario, who saw her Pastor in the store, and he joined in by bragging about their group and a meeting of their mutual admiration society was held between the two, both smiling and so proud of themselves.
They then individually leave the conversation and go their separate ways.
Do you notice what the two scenarios have in common?
Neither member nor leader ever offered an invitation.
They told me how wonderful they were but it never crossed their mind to ask me to come and see for myself.
In the incident in which the Pastor participated, as I was left there alone, another man who had been observing approached me and asked,
“Did I miss something?”
I say, “in what respect?”.
He says “did they ever say what church they belong to?”.
I sadly replied, “no they did not”.
Then he adds, “did they even tell you the name of their church?”
“No. No they did not”.
That’s where the importance of a name comes into our conversation today.
What’s in a name?
Well there should be at least three things.
Power, Truth and the real you.
There is power in a name. Throughout the generations, names have been held in esteem and boldly proclaimed. In all sorts of societies and cultures, songs are sung about individuals who are called by their name.
Current trends in worship music, even reinforce this point. Do a search or click on this Google I did for you, and see how many results there are for “there is power in your name”.
Nearly six billion in less than seven tenths of a second.
That should at least suggest there is an understanding that names have power and the use of names is important.
So why then are you not even sharing the name of your gathering?
The second thing involved in a name is Truth. It should be what you stand for. You should desire that your family name be respected and that should be especially true for a church name.
However there are a myriad number of communities out there with words like Hope, Faith, Abundant, Blessed, and even Outreach in the monikers on the signs out front that apparently do not see truth in those terms.
They paint them, they illuminate them, they work to reinforce their brand, but they don’t live up to their name in making personal invitations.
Speaking of the signs, they have changed as well.
Notice how few actually include service times or names of the pastor. It’s either a strategically branded ten word message to appear trendy or an old school disparagement for those who don’t participate in their club that’s not welcoming you anyway.
I realize under the COVID shadow, there were many changes in time and services moving to cyberspace, but in one extreme case I personally witnessed, instead of using the online service as an opportunity to invite more to their message they did exactly the opposite.
When I went to their website, they slammed the door in my face.
This particular group which self identifies as a church, posted a message that noted due to the pandemic services were now online.
Instead of listing the time, here’s what their message included.
“To watch our broadcast, email us. If you are a current member in good standing, then we will send you a code to allow you to watch”.
Not only were the online doors locked, they were barricaded.
Not even just against some lowly individual like me who might be trying to visit, but they even built a wall between members.
I have no idea what their definition of being “a current member in good standing” is, however I suspect it has something to do with writing a check.
The third element I mentioned of being involved in “What’s In A Name?” is the real you.
Your name should be a testament to who you truly are, what you believe and what you are willing to stand for.
It should be a representation of the content of your character and proof that you live what you say you hold as being true.
You cannot be “Living Authentically”, if your name does live up to it.
You can make all the false claims you want but sooner or later people will make the correct associations with your name and you.
Plus it’s not just churches.
This past Saturday I attended an event hosted by a local non-profit that is seeking to improve its global reach. They debuted an innovative idea, done in a creative, powerful, new and inspiring way.
It was an interesting and pleasant experience if you discount the fact that the room was full of cliques.
People came together. Sat together. Only spoke with those they came with.
I say hello, they frown, avert their eyes or literally turn their backs.
Therefore it’s impossible to know their names or what they possibly believe in.
Much like my semi-adjacent residents I know only as the Scowlers. I’m certain that is not their family name, but it is an authentic representation of their behaviors.
I do not consider them neighbors because they exhibit none of the characteristics of desiring to be like a good neighbor. Apparently that’s devolved to a branding statement.
These individuals will not say hello or even wave back.
Then there was the day their dog got out and ran towards me darting across the street and I scooped it up, preventing it from getting hit by a speeding car that never stopped.
Ms. Scowler came running towards me, grabbed the dog from my outstretched arms, gave me a dirty look, a scowling glare and turned her back without ever thinking of even saying thank you.
I also need to add that not only have people become less willing to share their names, they have no interest in knowing yours.
At the event I spoke of, I had conversations both prior to and following the gathering with an individual in a key position.
I know her name, because of prior visits and promotional materials, but in all the times I have spoken with her, she has never once asked my name. Pretty hard to reach people if you don’t know nor even make an effort to learn how to address them.
How can we all move forward, if we are dug in, shielding ourselves from anyone new or perceived as different?
So this part is now a revision from the original scheduled post.
That’s because after writing the original, I received an answer to that last question.
It is don’t give up.
Keep searching. Keep looking. Keep on trying to see those others who like us on this shared path are trying to be “Becoming Today” all that we were created to be.
Somewhat disheartened by my Saturday evening experience, I was feeling frustrated. All the way home I kept saying to myself ‘there has to be a way, there has to be others’.
Arriving home and talking it over with the dog who was just overly ecstatic that I had returned – believing the few hours I was gone was more like six months to her, I repeatedly stated ‘there must be a way to find’…. Then it hit me.
So I boldly declared those two words that will always immediately deliver a response to multiple devices within the sound of my voice.
I knew I had “her” attention and added “events May1st near me”.
I was then led to an encounter with unity.
Where a small but mighty group of women gathered and none hesitated with greeting me, or sharing their names. It was really refreshing. A timely affirmation along our shared path.
Plus it lends hope to those of us seeking- that answers can be found, shared and not all is being segregated behind locked hearts.
I pray your day is a blessed one and that all those you come into contact with are not only able to receive but also freely share some of our connected essence.
“What I’m talking about is much closer aligned with “Becoming” as a noun: ‘’the process of coming to be something or of passing into a state”. Coming to be always, “Becoming”. Growing, developing and shifting into an attitude and daily practice of always, “Becoming Today”.