What’s in a name?


At the Dale, we go by many names. Many folks have developed their own nicknames for me, including “Captain J”, “Jo-a”, “Lorelai” (apparently I look like a Lorelai?), “Creature from the unknown” (nice, I know), “Tall Girl”, “Jojo” etc. One friend calls Erinn “Ms. Padre-ess”, many call her “Pastor Erinn” and a few others call her “Mom”. I even get called “Mom” now and again. I’ve also learned to answer to “Erinn”, since some folks can’t keep us straight!

I love having many nicknames, and coming up with nicknames for others: “Marky-Mark”, “Douglas Fir” and “Marleney” to name a few.

I’ve been thinking about the power of names lately- how they have the ability to create a sense of camaraderie and affection, or to destroy a person’s sense of self-worth. We hear some pretty awful names being tossed around, usually directed at others, occasionally directed at us. Some of our friends have recently learned the hard way that calling people certain names can cause you bodily harm.

However, I think the deepest way that names cause harm is when people apply them to themselves. I’ve often found myself telling folks that, no, they are not “just a bum” or “a dirty skid” but a beloved friend. Just today I heard a friend refer to themselves as “a wart on the ass of society”. How awful, that this precious person has been given the message that they are worse than useless, and internalized it to such an extent that they inflict that name on themselves. This is one of the saddest things I can imagine.

One of my favourite songs in the Dale’s songbook is called “I Will Change Your Name”. It goes like this:

I will change your name.
You shall no longer be called:
Wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid.
I will change your name.
Your new name shall be:
Confidence, joyfulness, overcoming one,
Faithfulness, friend of God,
One who seeks My face

May it be so, for all of us.

About joannacatherinemoon

I am the Lead Community Worker at The Dale Ministries in Parkdale, Toronto, ON. The Dale seeks to create safe welcoming spaces in which all people, particularly those on the margins, are encouraged to participate fully, to the best of their abilities and journey together toward a deeper experience of the life God has given us. This blog is meant to help keep my supporters connected with life at The Dale.

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