We sometimes allow others to tell us who we are--to name/define us--usually based on something negative. Growing up, we had the saying, "[s]ticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." We, or our loved ones, repeated it when people were called out of their given names. Today, we hear countless stories of bullying; people using pejorative terms to describe others; folks telling others they're nothing or good for nothing; people being teased because they're different, etc. Everyone has moments of weakness, vulnerability, self-doubt, etc., and if those negative words are spoken repeatedly and/or at times of vulnerability, it may have a damaging effect.

For as long as I can remember, one of my favorite quotes has been, "[i]t does not matter so much what the thing is called as what the thing is".* So, for example, why not tear off the label of "victim" and be a victor; tear off the label of "good for nothing" and use your gift(s); tear off the label of "no one" and show you are a child of God who's loved,  blessed, precious, talented, and fearfully and wonderfully made; tear off the label of "ugly, disabled, or limited" and show your beauty while using your perceived limitation(s) to be a blessing to others; tear off the label of "outcast and different" and show your exceptionalism; tear off the label of "incapable" and step out of the shadows to exhibit your skills; tear off the label of "having little or nothing" and walk in your blessings. When people mislabel us it's often based on a snapshot in time and/or their own insecurities (we all have them). Absent unusual circumstances, why should any one thing, situation, or circumstance define the entirety of our lives? You know who you are and of what you're capable. If not, find others who can encourage you in this regard.

We must surround ourselves with people who know and call us by our proper name(s), who affirm, support, encourage, and uplift us. (For those of us fortunate to have such people in our lives, why not mentor others who don't?) We can't allow naysayers to tell us who we are or should be. Those folks struggle just like we do. We can't allow anyone to tell us what we're not capable of doing. Been there (see this). We can't allow anyone to tell us we're limited. Instead of absorbing things meant to harm us, we must allow them to motivate us to be everything we're purposed to be. Let's live up to who God says we are and can be rather than down to the naysayers.

What's in a name? Nothing or everything. It depends on whether the name represents who we know we are and what we're capable of based on what God says about us.

*Carter G. Woodson
 


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