Over the past several years, I have come to realize just how important names are. Such a seemingly small thing to call someone by their given name, but it makes such a huge difference in how that someone responds to me. Each year when I was a Resident Director I used get feedback from students on our ResLife Survey that say things like “My RD is awesome. She actually knows my name.” Wow… Is it that uncommon for someone to know their names?

The Power of Names

I drove home the importance of learning names in an RA Training session one year where I had all the RAs stand in a circle and do a simple name game. They had to choose an adjective that started with the same first letter as their first name and tell the rest of the group. The catch was they also had to remember and say the name/adjective combo of everyone who had gone before them.

The problem came when I realized that I had been so focused on making sure the instructions were clear and everyone understood what to do that I completely forgot to think up an adjective to go with MY name to start the game. Oops… The RAs jumped in quickly to help, though, and someone shouted out, “LOVELY Laura!” Lovely?? I’ll take it!

So, we laughed our way through the game, enjoying getting to know each other, and then we debriefed. The RAs threw out different take away points – they REALLY need to learn the names of their new residents, sometimes people are just going to be goofy and refuse to follow the rules, etc. I then broached the subject of giving people names.

Giving Names

Most, if not all, of our floors gave each other nicknames each year, and many people went by their “floor names” more often than they went by their real names. As one who had a name given to her for the game, I thoroughly enjoyed having 25 people look me in the eye and call me Lovely Laura. It just made me happy. I’m not even much of a words of affirmation person, but having so many people recognize something good in me and speaking it aloud was just incredible. (Several RAs then took to calling me Lovely Laura every time they saw me, and I was totally okay with that plan!)

Can you imagine what it would be like to be given a name you hated? One that seemed to not speak anything true about you at all? Maybe some of you have. Perhaps your parents gave you some hideous name that you ran out and changed as soon as you were legally able to do so. Or maybe you had a nickname that everyone around you thought was so clever, but that you absolutely despised. What a horrible thing to never be called a name that speaks of who you really are. And how precious to finally be named something that rings true.
What's in a Name? Pt. 1 - 1 Thes. 5:11

Use the Power of Names

My challenge to you, dear readers, is the same one I gave to my RAs: speak someone’s name when you pass them today, call them by their given name or an affirming and encouraging nickname you know they love. Call out all the good things you see in them. Then wait and see how they respond. If we are supposed to encourage and build one another up in love, as Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, calling each other by true and affirming names seems like a great way to start.