September 15, 2016

What’s in a Name? A lot more than we Think.


Lately, I’ve been thinking about the gravity of a name—how one person can change how we perceive a name forever.

How that one name becomes more or less significant depending on how often or rarely we speak it—each choice weighted with meaning.

I wasn’t even thinking of names generally, in a Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name,” kind of way. I was thinking of a specific name, one I rarely speak now and one I promised to never use in my writing.

The significance of the name and my relationship (or lack thereof) to it has ruined a favorite television show that uses the same name for a primary character. I found shortly after his abrupt departure that watching the show was impossible when I had to hear his name a number of times every episode.

There are times when I lie beneath the night sky, and even the stars spell out his name. It feels like the earth is turning to the sound of his breathing, somewhere in the night without me. When we lose someone we love, we will find that there are times when we can’t be comforted by the thought that we are lying under the same sky. All we can feel is the weight of those stars spelling out our loss, shining in the tears that trace their way down on our faces.

Perhaps it seems silly that one name can have such an effect—to not only infiltrate our thinking, but to ruin something as simple as a TV show. But when we reflect on our lives, we perceive names in relation to the people we attach to them. In the wake of a heartbreak, those names become sources of sorrow, longing, even anger. When we fall in love, those names become joy and wonder and every beautiful thing.

Our relationships with the people who belong to those names forever changes our perception of the names. And our relationships change us. 

When I lost the person I loved, I allowed it to change me in positive ways. Instead of simply growing bitter or blaming all men for his perfidy, I instead directed my attention to myself. I began to uncover deeply hidden thought processes that were corroding my relationships. I began to examine my own behaviors and insecurities where relationships are concerned. Instead of allowing it to completely break me, I allowed it to break me and to heal me and to build me back up to a stronger version of myself.

I still don’t speak his name often. But, I am changed by it.

There’s a power in names, and sometimes I just want the strength of that connection severed completely. We’re going to be changed by the names that cross our paths, by the souls that claim them. We’re going to be hurt, and we’re going to be scared. We’re going to grow in ways we never anticipated, and if we’re lucky, our struggles will lead us to our most beautiful, brave and authentic selves.

And our names will mean something to those we encounter. Our treatment of others will dictate how our names are perceived, and we can choose what that perception will be simply by paying attention to how we nurture the relationships in our lives. And yes, that includes those brief relationships that will not remain.

When we truly recognize the strength that lies in a name, we can make sure that we exercise our own power in only positive ways. We can be sure that we treat others in such a way that they view our names in the best possible light— as people of kindness and truth and authenticity. We can evaluate our own behaviors to make sure that they reflect well on the names that belong to us, and we can focus on our every action, rather than constantly evaluating the treatment that we receive. Let others be responsible for their own names and how others will perceive them. In the end, we are responsible for ourselves.

And when we realize that, when we fully embrace that how we treat other human beings (and even animals) represents how our name will forever after be perceived by each person we encounter, we can empower ourselves to live up to our fullest potential. Our kindest. Our most loving.

When we say goodbye to others, we can do so in love, in kindness, even in gratitude for their part in our lives. And when someone leaves us in a way that tarnishes their name for us, we can still act in love, in kindness and, yes, even in gratitude for their part in our lives. We can learn to grieve and to let go, and we can let these experiences remind us that our treatment of others is powerful in so many ways. Not the least of which is contained in something as simple as our names.



Author: Crystal Jackson

Image: Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski

Editor: Travis May

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Crystal Jackson  |  Contribution: 44,440