"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
Why is it that when someone forgets our name that we feel “less known”?
I felt that last week as I glanced down at the lineup for performances at my son’s school. Our last name was wrong. It was an innocent mistake, but all of a sudden I felt invisible. Even though we had been attending the school for seven years, I felt as though it was our first day. I felt the all-too-familiar warm wash of embarrassment. My first impulse to was to run up to the front and tell the organizers that this was wrong, and they needed to fix it! But I just sat, let my emotions settle and asked myself what was happening. I could chose to agree with the “you are not important” lie that was beginning to take over, or I could press “pause” on this trigger and reassess the situation.
As I stepped back, I realized this was a bigger trigger for me than most. Mainly because I was the kid in school who never got to have the pre-printed name stickers on her water bottle or folder. I had to always “fight” to remind everyone I was Tami, not Tammy. To a little girl, it felt as though if someone spelled my name wrong, I wasn’t known.
So to step back into a scenario, at my son's school, where I had felt known and to feel the sting and possibility of maybe being wrong? The warm rush was not just embarrassment, it was mixed with silliness. Like that fear of showing up for a party we were never invited to. Or being the “we-have-to-invite-her-so-her-feelings-aren’t-hurt” friend. Yuk.
As I sat and stared at the program, and felt so utterly “unknown” I began to hear a gentle whisper in my heart.
“Are you known by Me?”
I felt my my spirit start to rise and a tear ran down my face.
Psalm 139 came rushing back to my mind and I thought about how God knows every single one of my thoughts before I do. He doesn’t think my feelings are silly or over-sensitive..a cool calm of compassion for myself began to ease my anxiety. Yes. He knows me.
That is all I needed. He reminded me I am known by my creator. He is for me, He is with me. I breathed a deep sigh and felt my heartbeat return to normal and my body relax. I extended grace and forgiveness in my heart to everyone in the room organizing the event. I reminded myself how I have done the SAME mistake so many times.
In all honesty, I am not very good at remembering names. I will remember a face, but I struggle with names. And when I examine my own heart, it is not because I don’t care or the person hasn’t impacted my life. It’s because I’m human.
In a study done by Cohen and Faukner (1986) they gave participants fake names and biographies to study and tested them on what they could remember. The results were; 86% could remember Jobs; 68% Hobbies; 62% Hometowns; 31% first names; 30% last names.
There are tricks we can do to remember names, like add a job/hobby to a name. For example, “Jon the Jogger.” The article goes on to say we could also try repeating the name immediately after it is told to us, or recall the moment you first met and the name can be easier to member.
Needless to say, our names are important and I truly do want to get better at remembering all the dear ones names I meet everyday.
I believe most people sincerely do desire and want others to feel important, loved and acknowledged. I know that is a desire of mine. However, we can only pass on what we have already attained. When we feel known, that is what others feel when they are with us.
There is a room in our hearts we can rest in at anytime, where we are always known. God will meet us there. It’s amazing how many times in my life I forget how to get there. But He leads me there each time I ask.
So, the next time someone I know walks by me and pretends not to see me, or calls me Lisa, or mispronounces my last name, I‘m going to graciously smile and remind myself that I am KNOWN by The One who defines me.
I’m so thankful I’m known.