|What's In a Name?|
|Written by J.M. Adkison | The Bison|
|Friday, 04 November 2011 08:29|
If I ruled the world, people would be known by who they are and what they could be, not what they have been. To clarify, people would not be defined by their struggles, disabilities or past deeds. Instead we should call people by their names, not their labels.
I spent my middle school years in three different schools, moving from Ohio to Michigan to Maine in between sixth and eighth grade, and I was constantly known as the “New Kid.” For most of middle school and a great deal of high school, I felt like I had “New Kid” tattooed on my forehead. I could have been called much worse, but it would have been nice to have been known by my real name, John Mark, rather than “New Kid.” When I was born, it wasn’t like my parents said, “Oh hey, here’s the New Kid. What a strong name.” They were a little more creative than that.
Many have heard of the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, a movement to end the use of the term “retarded” as a derogatory name for people with disabilities. This campaign is a powerful example of people trying to keep individuals from being labeled by their disabilities and setbacks. It is their and others’ mission to put people before their traits. They are more than just “mentally handicapped.” They have a name, so learn it and call them by it.
Several weeks ago, Vice President for Spiritual Life Bruce McLarty gave a great chapel lesson on the subject of names and how names hold a power over who we are and what we can become. He used the specific example of the man who was possessed by Legion, a host of countless demons that had tormented him into a mad person living in caves and cutting his own body.
Then Jesus came and freed him from his tormentors, restoring his sanity and humanity. The man became a living testimony to the redemptive and restorative power of Jesus, but unfortunately, we will never know his real name. The publishers of our Bibles usually label this section of the Gospel as “The Gerasene Demoniac” or the “Demon-possessed Man,” and so that is what he has become known as among Christians.
I wish the Bible had given his name, because then we could learn it and call him by it. Even though he overcame his struggle, even though he was redeemed into a new person by Christ and was no longer demon possessed, we still call him the demon-possessed man.
Thanks to the bold labels in our Bibles that separate the different sections, several characters who were healed and redeemed by Jesus — we are simply not given their names and so we have named them by the traits they have when we first read of them. I am not trying to criticize the publishers of our Bibles because sometimes there is nothing else to know these characters by. But this idea of labeling people by their struggles instead of their names carries over into our everyday lives.
How often have you called girl with the eating disorder the “anorexic girl”? How often have you called the boy with the high-pitched voice and stylish fashion sense the “gay guy”? How often have you called the teenager looking for love in all the wrong places the “slut”? How often do you pass judgment on those you pass in the hall, meet in class or hear about through gossip and instantly slap a label on them based on their sins, struggles or your own assumptions about their character?
Names are powerful; they describe and define us. People should not be defined by their struggles; it is not what makes them a person. Everyone has a name, so learn it and call them by it.