The trending style on social media is to use an alternative name or nickname in place of our given name. In some countries, such as Korea and Japan, celebrities take on a different stage name instead of using their birth name.
Recently, one of New Zealand's well-known universities, Massey University, has been involved in a debate to determine if it should have a change of name following a discovery that the Prime Minister it was named after was supposedly a racist.
A name is our very first identity and each name is unique to a person or place. It is very important and has its significance. So why should we need a name other than our given name? Why should a place name need changing?
Does a name define someone and something—or do we define the name given to us?
Naming our children
Naming a baby is probably one of the most precious things we have the privilege to do as parents. A child usually bears the name we give them for their whole life. In some cultures a daughter retains part of her name but takes on her husband's family name when she marries.
My husband and I named our first-born after people who have been a huge influence in our lives. Our recent baby has names from the Bible. The meanings behind their names were also taken into consideration as we prayed for particular qualities we wanted for them in their lives as well as what each child meant to us.
The meaning of a name
Undoubtedly, the meaning of a name is pivotal in defining someone or something. There are many instances in the Bible where names were given based on the characteristics and significance of the place or the person.
In Exodus chapter 17, verse 7, 'Moses named the place Massah (which means "test") and Meribah (which means "arguing") because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the Lord by saying, "Is the Lord here with us or not?"'
The twelve sons of Jacob were given names based on their significance to their mothers at the time of birth (Genesis chapter 29, verse 31–chapter 30, verse 24; chapter 35, verse 18).
Reasons for changing a name
Although there's much consideration given when naming someone and something, we still find people creating other names and renaming locations. Even in the Bible, there are changes to names. Two of the most obvious reasons I found for this in the Bible were to fit in with present circumstances and to represent a future promise.
To fit in to the present circumstances
Saul used the Gentile form of his name Paul as he began his ministry to the Gentiles. Likewise, today many people adopt a different name when they live in the midst of another society and want to be more relatable.
To represent a future promise
God changed Abram's name, which meant exalted father, to Abraham, father of many, when He promised his descendants would be as numerous as the stars (Genesis chapter 17, verse 5). While there are a few others who were given new names by God alongside a promise for their life in the Bible, a name change is by no means required for God's promises to us.
Is our name us?
My name Esther means star. This doesn't mean I am a star or that I have to be a star. Similarly, the fact my name isn't Jessica, which means rich, doesn't mean I'm not rich. I certainly don't have to be a Jessica to be rich. Nor do you.
I believe that I determine who Esther Koh is and what Esther Koh means. As important as a name is, it doesn't limit us and certainly is not the determining factor of who we are.
So the question to ask before discarding our original name for another—be it an alternative on social media and the likes, or changing and using another name more permanently, as in the case of Massey University—is whether our name determines who we are or whether we determine what our name means.
Esther Koh is a stay-at-home mum living in Wellington with her husband and two sons. She loves people and has a passion for helping others find their purpose for living.
Esther Koh's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/esther-koh.html