What’s in a name?

But now thus says the LORD that created you…”Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

What’s in a name?

We cannot get around that question. From the start, we are named. As life continues, we bestow more names to children, pets, toys, places, projects, et cetera.

This naming business is far from insignificant. Consequently, it can often subject to negative, extremely personal and abusive behavior. It can challenge the recovery from our individual hurts, histories and obstacles.

I’ve personally encountered this toxicity. I have had people call me derogatory names; profanity and misogyny have often been at the center of those names.

It’s startling, infuriating and potentially harmful to my health and recovery. Often reeling from these encounters, my only recourse is to

run to God in prayer.

Recently, I came across a social media post about name calling. And it shed some insight regarding personal attacks.

Here are these reasons behind negative name calling revealed…

Cover up mistakes
Cause confusion
Deceive observers
Discredit or invalidate opponent
Disarm opponent
Distract or divert attention
Draw attention
Encourage criticism
Instigate reaction
Manipulate you into compliance
Manipulate perception or mislead
Manipulate your beliefs and values
Project blame onto others
Reinforce social stigma
Personal Agenda: A Huge “Why”

For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.James 3:16

As we look at this list of “reasons,” it doesn’t take long to see how a personal agenda is behind it all.

And it can become overwhelming to discern and deal with that often destructive personal agenda. Indeed, envy and self-seeking behaviors are often found there. Both share unrealistic expectation, entitlement and, yes, selfishness. Possessing these attributes is human. Like it or not, each of us is subject to falling into this humanity.

With that said, however, it still is not an excuse to eviscerate someone’s character, feelings or circumstances.

Misunderstanding is frequently at the root of negative name calling. We don’t see and know the entirety of a person, their history and their situations. So, in our uninformed perspective, we somehow justify, with unchallenged conviction, the determination they “deserve” said name attached to them.

Someone gets called a profanity, a slur or any other variation of an unflattering, hurtful word.

And here’s where we are confronted with a choice. In that unpleasant, real moment, how do we respond to a derogatory name hurled at us?

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

This tests everything: our faith, our character and our triggers. Over the years, I have tried various tactics concerning the name calling issue.

    I have…
    …ignored it, doing my best to not dignify it with a response…
    He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth… Isaiah 53:7
    (Yeah, this Jesus kind of response was definitely not easy)…

    …just walked away…

    “Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.” Proverbs 14:7
    (Again, it’s NOT easy).

    …attempted to reason with the person, offering a plea for understanding and civility…
    “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9
    (Oh, don’t get me started here)…

    …responded to verbal attack by stating, “Stop it!”

    “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Matthew 5:37
    (This, I’ve found, can shut all communication down)…

    …put the particular name through my questioning filter, attempting to assess if there was anything “valid” to the incident…
    Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalms 139:23-24
    (As if I’m not enough of a masochist already)…

And here’s where I run into a gigantic sticking point: negative name calling is DESTRUCTIVE, not CONSTRUCTIVE criticism.

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” James 3:5-6

Unfortunately, when a person is in this reactionary mode, they are often not the least bit interested in resolving, understanding or being peaceful.

They, because of fear, hurt or frustration, disguised as personal offense, often only want to retaliate.

Again, no one is immune from being in this place.

Nevertheless, it still targets a pointy question for the name caller:
Why are you saying what you are saying?

It comes back to personal human agenda.

But Thank God, God is different…

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

And because of our unflattering agenda portrait, we need to return to God on this issue.

When imperfect human beings make the choice to hurt with untrue, but painful verbal attacks, how much more do we need to reaffirm God’s position on the name calling topic?

Called By MY NAME…
“Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:7

We need to learn, apply and bandage ourselves with how God sees us and how He names us.
(Once again, this is not easy).

When painful verbal abuse is launched our way, we need to keep first things first.

Our First Love: That Settles It…

We love him, because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

Our inherent value and lovability are secure and decided upon long before we were ever in a circumstance which challenged us to believe a harmful lie of a degrading name.

We were specifically, intentionally, created in His Image and called good…

And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good…Genesis 1:31

And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. Genesis 1:26-27

And after our creation, God celebrates us…

The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

That’s an important thing to keep in mind whenever we’re in a name calling moment.

I mean, let’s face it, in that uncomfortable scenario, there is nothing celebratory going on.

Why HIS Name Calling?

“Since you were precious in my sight… I have loved you…” Isaiah 43:4

So, whenever we feel diminished in a negative context, we need God’s affirming naming process. It comes from an agenda of love.

The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3

At surface level, this feels like a no brainer.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know- God loves us.

Yet, when we are bombarded with vicious, degrading and hurtful words, words which often convince us of our worthlessness, this important love thing can be incredibly difficult to accept.

Free To Transform Because God is Decided…

“I have chosen you and have not cast you away.” Isaiah 41:9

Therefore, knowing God is already decided about His love and decision to choose us can, however slightly, make it easier for us to absorb.

And maybe this absorption can facilitate our trust inthe grace-infused process of transformation, even in spite of our wounds and issues.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18

One of the reasons I frequently refer to 2 Corinthians 3:18 and an entire slew of unconditional love scriptures as I write, speak and mentor, is because life, without any sugarcoating, is brutal. I’ve encountered many along the way who are walking wounded from someone else’s fiery tongue.

Therefore, part of the ongoing healing process is to frequently remind ourselves of these love and value scriptures.

I wish I could say I am completely finished and healed. I would love to say it’s all resolved.

But I would be lying if I said that.

My struggle, to this day, resides in not just the memories of days and words gone by, but also in the current biting experiences from people, especially when they are family, I experience to this day.

This, unfortunately, is a common reality for many of us out there. From what name, insult or slur are you trying to process and heal? Who said it? Do you take over where they leave off, calling yourself this horrible name for yourself?

While the recovery journey of truth, acquiring tools and forgiveness unfolds for each of us, there’s one more thing which needs to also be mentioned: Matthew 12:36.

“But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”

Do I offer this scripture because of the “get ‘em” promise of vengeance on our enemies?


Rather, it is to remind us all, myself included, of the reality of individual accountability. Even on our best day, we still can only control our own actions. That does not guarantee self-control and appropriate behavior will spread to anyone else. So, yes, there is the risk of someone else’s choice for bad and hurtful behavior to be aimed at us- and name calling is included in that.

It’s important to believe God’s love and value estimation concerning us is more powerful than any person’s opinion and the toxic results emanating from it.

Again, to quote W.C. Fields…

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

Let’s commit to the challenge of accepting ourselves, called by our true names!

“…I have called you by your name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1