What’s In A Name? How Your Name Determines Your Identity.

Do you believe your name determines what or how you think? How you behave? I must say I am a bit of a skeptic but I’m coming around to the idea. I am not so convinced that I am willing to pay $145 to pay for a different name. So what’s in a name?

We see name changes throughout Scripture. For example; Jacob became Israel, Simon became Cephas or Peter and Saul became Paul. Why did God change their names?

Jacob means, “holder of the heel. Heel biter. Supplanter.” Israel means, “wrestles with God.” Would you rather be known as a wrestler with God or a heel biter?

The name Jesus gave Simon was Cephas or Peter, which means, “stone or rock.” Implied is a change from moveable to immoveable.

Saul means, “inquirer of God.” Paul means “small or humble.”

These are great examples but the one that I think is most significant is Abram and Sarai. According to James L. Garlow in, The Covenant, God changed both their names. The AH “generally signifies the breath or presence of God.” Garlow further states,

This name change is precisely what occurred when God made covenant with Abram. The man’s name changed from Abram to AbrAHam. The two letters that are added are “AH,” which come from Yahwa (YAH-way), the name of God that appears approximately 6800 times in the Old Testament. We pronounce it “Jehovah.” God doesn’t stop there. True to covenant, He takes Abraham’s name. From this point on, calls himself “the God of Abraham.” (1)

From this point on Abraham and Sarah took on new identities. This same breath is what gave Adam life. This new identity changed everything for them. They also listened to the voice of God. Every one of us does both these things, i.e., we have a notion of our identity and we listen to some voice(s).

In The Hungry Spirit: Beyond Capitalism, A Quest for Purpose in the Modern World, Charles Handy describes the difficulty of connecting with his ideal self: “I spent the early part of my life trying hard to be someone else. At school I wanted to be a great athlete, at University an admired socialite, afterwards a businessman and, later, the head of the great institution. It did not take me long to discover that I was not destined to be successful in any of these guises, but that did not prevent me from trying, and being perpetually disappointed with myself.

The problem was that in trying to be someone else, I neglected to concentrate on the person I could be. That idea was too frightening to contemplate at the time. I was happier going along with the conventions of the time, measuring success in terms of money and position, climbing ladders which others placed in my way, collecting things and contacts rather than giving expression to my own beliefs and personality.” (2)

Handy later listened to a different voice and connected with his, “ideal self.”

It is easy to get sidetracked with the belief that we should become someone based on an observation of another. This is called the Pygmalion Effect. When you act in a manner in accordance with motives and expectations of which you have no conscious awareness. For example, when a parent tells a child they are smart, and they should become an attorney. The child believes they should become an attorney and once achieving this status ends up at mid-life wondering what happened. They realize they’ve been chasing success but what they later realize is they need is significance.

What does your name mean? Are you living up to your name? Is it time for a new identity? What voice are you listening to? Are you ready to identify and become your ideal self?

A good place to start is to look at your past through a free workbook.

(1) James L. Garlow, The Covenant, 25 ,26

(2) Coleman, Boyatwzis, McKee, Primal Leadership, 117

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