Finding Meaning in Your Name
Updated: Jun 23
Names are pretty significant in the scheme of our lives. What we are called reflects in our personalities, no matter if we know it or not. This doesn't only apply to our birth name, this applies to all of the names (words) that others call us, as well as, what we call ourselves. Words are powerful, there are many times when we feel their quake in our lives.
We can use words tear things apart or to call things together to create a foundation to build upon. Truly owning our name, defining ourselves, or even defying the very things we have been called makes a significant impact in our lives and how we relate to others. We identify with our name(s).
Why Parents Choose the Names They Do
Most parents put a lot of thought into naming their children. There are tons of resources out there to define what names mean and how popular they are. Sometimes people name children after a favorite childhood name. Sometimes they choose names that remind them of something or of someone. Children are often named with heritage in mind. Family names that have carried down from the regions of the world that their elders are from. Other times they are chosen simply because the name is a favorite.
When naming our daughter, Kierin, we were at odds on what her name would be. Without an ultrasound to tell us whether we needed a feminine or masculine name, we simply could not make up our minds on a name for a girl. I really wanted to name her Keiran (pronounced Keer-an), an Irish name, typically used for a boy. I had my heart set on this name, but it's meaning changed our minds. We decided to name her Kierin (Key-air-in) instead, our own little spin off of the name, but with her own pronunciation. Her nickname is Kie (key).
We chose Jaxon for our son, a name we both were fond of, but also spelled it non-traditionally, to automatically build in his nickname, Jax. We also affectionately call him "Jacky Boy". Both of our children's names intentionally had nicknames built into them. We also considered what their initials spelled out, so that they wouldn't be taunted in school, like some children we grew up with. There is a lot that goes into the thought process of naming our children.
Historical Significance of Names
👉 Discover more about the Power in the Name of Jesus here.
Historically names for children were chosen out of tradition. Often times they were associated with where they were from, geographically or ancestrally. Names were also chosen to "breath life" into a child's future circumstances, like Felicia, which means "successful". Choosing a name to describe a trait was also popular, for example Esau literally translated to "hairy", which he physically was.
Names almost always stand for something. They are significant, even if it's only to our parents. Perhaps they only reinfect on where the parent was at during the time when they were having children. Names can carry the weight of symbolism or the purpose we are to fulfill. Sometimes children are re-named, or given new names as the person's characteristics change, like Jesus did for Simon (one who hears and obeys) to Peter (rock) to signify his transition from "someone who obeys" to a foundation "stone" that was firm enough to build Jesus' church on.
Re-naming is also sometimes occurs, as in the book of Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar tried to strip Daniel and his friends of their birthright names in attempt to convert them into the lifestyle of their captive nation's beliefs. He desired to blend them into Babylon's culture. It's never a good idea to take upon ourselves the influence of surroundings that are hostile to our beliefs. It doesn't end well.
Growing up with a Unique Name
I was told my name, Cariss, was some translation of a Greek word, that began with an "X", and meant "God's gift". My parents' pastor at the time suggested the name, as they too were unsure what to name a daughter (funny how things work). If I was a boy, I would have been named Sean, a traditional Irish name.
I mean what kind of name is "Cariss" anyway?! Growing up in the 80's and 90's I never met another person with my name. The world was evolving, but technology wasn't as readily available as it now is. Things were not nearly as connected as they are today and to even begin to search for things, required going to libraries and hoping they actually had some sort of literature on the topic you were interested in. Knowledge was much more limited than it is today. I mean the WWW (world wide web) wasn't even released until 1989. It really wasn't until the mid to late 90's where the average person had the luxury of private access to the information out there on the web, especially as a teen.
I was teased relentlessly for my name. Boys were especially rough to deal with, as they loved to taunt me with "Caress Cariss". I thought that eventually the boys would grow out of it with age, but to this very day, men chuckle when their minds hear "Caress" instead of "Cariss". Another pitfall was that I could never find my name on anything! No pencils or notepads, key chains or even a license plate for my bike. All of the things kids like to have their name on, were never at my reach, unless I decided to write it on something myself with a marker. Funny enough, even with technology today, I still have nothing with my name engraved on it.
By taking on the weight of others attitudes toward my name, I cut short the grace that was there all along. Growing up, I had mistook the challenge of being different, even if only by name, for a burden.
Instead of holding myself to the esteem of the differences I felt, I attempted to blend in. If I didn't stand out as odd, then I wouldn't call attention to myself.
I'm so thankful that in my journey I discovered the truth and that each of us is different, and none of us are perfect, no matter how we appear. I am also thankful that I don't need to carry the weight of this that surround me. I am blessed that I learned how to separate my truth from the opinions of of the world around me.
How I Discovered Meaning in My Name
My name and I have a bittersweet past. It added to the awkward and sometimes graceless feeling I had growing up. It set me apart and made me different from the very first moment of introduction. I tried to fill in that separation through many things, unsuccessfully trying to achieve the flip side of those comparisons.
It always reminded me of a double edged sword. There was something about it's uniqueness that made me feel special. Something that made me feel that being different was a privilege instead of a curse. There was something inside of me telling me that I was in fact special, not odd, and that my name and my differences were part of it's mystery. That my being "different" from birth, no matter what other's thought, was a good thing. A tough challenge for a child trying to fit in and defining themselves by what others thought and called them. Thankfully, I eventually grew beyond this.
It took moving across and entire country to finally find out what the true meaning of my name was. A pastor, whom we connected with at the church we had been attending when we moved, approached me one Sunday after church. With a big smile on his face, he asked me if I knew what my name meant. It was the first time, in my life, someone had asked me that question, in that manner. He wanted to tell me the true meaning of my name, not just the mere definition of it.
God's Divine Humor
After telling him the brief story my mother had told me growing up, he chuckled slightly. He agreed that it was a translation of the Greek word, χαϊδεύει or Charis and that it was a "gift of God", but not just any gift. It was the most important gift that God gave us, the gift of Grace. For the first time in my life, I was enlightened by my name. It no longer felt like the name I was cursed with as a child, but instead became a blessing to me. At times it felt like I needed that gift of grace more than most. It truly was a blessing put on me, at birth, but it wasn't a blessing just for me. It also meant I was to be a blessing to others and to show others the grace that God freely gives us all.
He went on to tell me that my husband, Shaun's name meant, "God is Gracious". That we were also connected in our given names. Grace compliments grace. Remember, if I would have been born a boy, I would've been named Sean? Instead of being named Sean, I married a Shaun. This was a blessing undiscovered by me for many years, but quite obvious in it's origin and meaning in our lives once the blessing was uncovered. Only by God's divine intervention did we meet each other and through His guidance, our marriage is still going strong after 19 years of being together.
Discovering Hidden Blessings in Your Name
No matter what name was given to you by birth, or what you have come to be called, it has meaning in your life.
Your characteristics make an impact in how you feel about yourself or how you attempt to define yourself. What you are called weighs on who you become and how you interact with others. It can define you in a positive or negative way, it's your choice.
We possess the ability to change our minds. Sometimes we can even find our purpose in the hidden blessings.
There are some things in this life that are certain.
Nothing is ever going to be perfect.
Nothing in this world lasts forever.
Nothing is ever completely finished, it just evolves.
It's so important to discover and accept your gift of grace the Heavenly Father has given to you, because He loves you. When you are His child, you no longer have to define yourself by who you are, but instead by whose you are. Your true calling is realized through this understanding. You no longer have to be trapped by what the world's opinions of you are. You will also have a true way to measure life, by the example of your big brother, Jesus. If you don't like what you've been called, ask Jesus to refine you he did Simon ... Peter. He will walk with you through the process.
We are all given this opportunity. That blessing of becoming refined through the molding of your character is there for your taking. You do not have to be defined by your name or what you were called or what you have come to call yourself.
Your name was placed on you for a reason, whether you understand it or not. Your actions and attitude got you exactly where you are, these are both things that you can define for yourself.
There is a case to be made that you may have helped create a name for yourself in reputation. You have the choice to accept it or defy it. A choice to examine your name and become more like your big brother, or continue to immerse yourself in culture's definitions of you. You too can accept the Gift of Grace and pay it forward. By Grace, you can reflect His light in your life and show those that need it the difference.
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