Just a thought: It’s only just a name, or is it?


It has been said that the sweetest sound a person can hear is the sound of his or her name.

Your name is unique. It is the very identifier for each of us. When someone says, “How are you doing Rick?” I know their greeting is specifically for me. If in a lengthy conversation the person I am talking with says “Rick” several times, it reminds me that they are talking directly to me.

So, what is in a name? Does your mind jump to certain thoughts and conclusions merely at hearing a name? What if I said the name “Adolf Hitler?” Or “Christopher Reeves?” What if I said the name “Billy Graham?” Or “Michael Jordan?” Or “Michael Jackson.” How about “Osama bin Laden?” What do you think of when you hear the name “Mother Teresa?”

Sometimes we don’t even need both a first and a last name. Just a single name conveys a message. How about “Kennedy?” Or “Madonna?” What jumps into your mind if I say the name “Rockefeller?” or “Eastwood?” What about “Jesus?” Each name causes thoughts and or emotions to enter our head based upon what the name represents.

In the village in northeastern Nigeria where I was born, your first name is given based upon where you are in the birth order. A first born male is given one name. A female born after male/female twins is given another name. In some cultures with a high infant mortality rate, a name is not given until the child becomes a year old and looks like they will survive into their adolescence. In these cultures the mere assigning of a name is a significant event.

Studies have been done regarding how elementary students perform in class based upon whether they have a common name such as “Bill” or “Jim” versus a less common name such as “Rider” or “Rex.” Depending on what study you review, a newborn’s first name can impact how the child will be treated in the years ahead.

A person’s surname is also unique. Your family name is a common bond between your family members. It is a common bond between your immediate family and their relatives. Every other summer we have a family reunion on my mother’s side of the family. Our group is identified as the “Gearhart Family Reunion.” We had a reunion several years ago with over sixty five of us from across the country that spent the better part of a week together under the Gearhart “umbrella.” We are proud to be descendants of the “Gearhart” name.

A person’s surname can have a major impact on the life of the person. We often stereotype individuals we don’t know based upon last names. Drive into a city in another state during the weeks before an election and see what jumps into your mind when you see strangers’ surnames on different political signs.

None of us chose our birth names. Both the first and last names that we grew up with were given to us by others. What have you done with the name that was given to you?

When people hear your name, what thoughts immediately jump into their minds? It probably depends on the relationship or lack thereof between you and the person who is listening. There are countless things that others can take away from you, but your name is not one of them.

In the Bible in Proverbs 22:1 we are told, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

There is a poem about the importance of your name that drives home the message I am sharing with you. It is called, “Your Name.” Here is how it goes, “Your name is very valuable. You got it from your father, maybe it was all he had to give. But it’s yours to use and cherish for as long as you may live. You may lose what he gave you and it can always be replaced, but a black mark on you name, son, can never be erased. So guard it very closely cause after all is said and done, You will be glad your name is spotless when you give it to your son.”

What reputation have you developed with your name? What reputation are you passing on to your children through giving them your name?

My challenge to you today is to make sure you take care of your name. As the poem says, it may be the only thing that is passed down to you. Regardless, your name was given to you by someone else. In the life you are living are you putting black marks on the giver’s name or are you creating a gift you can pass on to those who follow after you for generations to come?

Just a thought...

Rick Kraft is a motivational speaker, a syndicated columnist, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.org or write to P.O. Box 850, Roswell, New Mexico, 88202 - 0850.


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