Name-calling. It’s bad, right?
There is a beautiful song by Mark Wills called Don’t Laugh at Me. Here are some of the words.
Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names, don’t get your pleasure from my pain, cause in God’s eyes we’re all the same.
We know that name-calling is bad. We shouldn’t do it. It’s mean and can cause emotional harm to another person. It rejects the dignity of another human being by labeling them as something bad – by judging them and giving them a negative identity. We don’t do that – I hope – and we might even correct others who do.
So maybe you would never do that – call another person a derogatory name. That’s good. That’s a reasonable expectation to have of any Christian.
But you know what we are much more likely to do? We are more likely to direct name-calling to ourselves. When we do that we are being mean to ourselves. We are causing or increasing the emotional harm to ourselves. We are rejecting our own dignity. We are labeling ourselves as something bad – and accepting a negative identity – an identity that is not true.
What does this look like or sound like in real life? We might say to ourselves:
I am a loser. A person drops out of college and then loses job after job, some for reasons outside of his control, and some because of his own lack of good work habits. Eventually he considers himself a worthless loser.
I am stupid. A teen struggles to get Cs in school. She has trouble reading and can’t understand the books she has to study. School comes easily to her friends, but she can’t keep up. She considers herself stupid.
I am a bad mother. A woman’s child is a drug addict, with all the behaviors that come with addiction. The child blames the mother, who accepts the blame and wonders what she did wrong, because it must be her fault – the mother’s fault. Surely she is a terrible mother to have turned out a child like that.
I am unlovable. A man has been rejected in life, first by his parents and then throughout his life by friends and relatives. Slowly he shuts off all of his feelings toward others and comes to believe that he is not worthy of being loved.
I am trash. A teen believes his life has no worth, no value. He can’t do anything right and nobody wants anything to do with him. He can be thrown out like the trash.
Did any one of those identities hit home for you? Is there one that you have believed in the past or maybe still believe today?
How do we get to the point of taking on these identities, of calling ourselves such destructive names, especially when we would not think of saying that to another person? There are a lot of life experiences that break us down and make us believe things about ourselves that aren’t true. It could be in childhood, in a bad marriage or abusive relationship, in betrayals by friends. There are many ways we get wounded, and through those wounds, we begin to believe things about ourselves that may not be true.
This is not what God wants for us. He doesn’t want us believing self-destructive lies. The one who wants that is the devil, and when we hear and believe those lies, we are under spiritual attack. So what do you do when you are attacked? I guess we could run away, but that doesn’t really work in this situation. We could surrender and believe the lies. That’s not good but lots of people do. How about fighting back? How about standing up for yourself and putting on the armor of God to reject the lies from the devil? Yeah, I think that’s the way to go.
So how do we fight name-calling? We reject the lies and replace them with God’s truth. The lies say that I am a stupid loser, bad mom, unlovable, and useless trash. But what does God call me? He calls me names, too, but they are good names. They lift me up. They encourage me. They help me to stand tall and they give me confidence.
Let’s look at some of the names that God gives us:
Beloved. How would you like to be called that? It’s a beautiful name. In the letters of John he constantly refers to the reader as beloved. He’s talking to us. We are beloved. We aren’t beloved because of what we do or what we have, we are beloved because we belong to God, because he created us. Even if there is nobody on this earth who considers you beloved, you are still beloved by God.
Child of God. We are made in his image and likeness. We are his children. He is our Father. And he is a good and loving Father. He gives us life and provides for us so we can be with Him in heaven. Sounds like a good deal!
Daughter or Son of the King. Jesus is the King of the universe. Jesus is the king and we are his sons and daughters. It’s good to be the king’s child.
Free men and women. (Galatians 4:7) What does that mean? It means we have free will. We don’t have to be slaves to our passions. We can choose God. We can choose good. We can choose Truth.
Saints. There are lots of places that Paul refers to the saints, meaning the believers and followers of the Way of Jesus. So when I follow Jesus, when I seek to do God’s will, when I share the Good News, I am a saint. Or at least trying.
A new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17) I am not who I was. Maybe I was an addict. Maybe I was an adulterer. Maybe I killed my child through abortion. Maybe I was a liar who found it easier to make something up than tell the truth. That’s who I was. But now I am a new creation. I don’t need those old identities. I can leave them in the past.
Ambassadors of Christ. What does that mean? Simply that we are called to represent Jesus in the world. It doesn’t matter how qualified I feel for that duty. I still represent Him in this world. I want this identity. I want to be Jesus in the world.
There are so many positive identities given to us by God. The name calling and negative identities come from somewhere else – someone else. How we see ourselves makes a difference in how we live our life. What does God want? He wants us to have life and have it in abundance. But when we are name-calling ourselves, we cannot live an abundant life. We are weighed down by the labels we accept – by the identity we accept. Maybe it’s time to get rid of that weight and to take on the beautiful names God has for us.
Ask God to help you see through the lies and embrace his truths about who you are. Think about times when you got defensive. What lies were you fighting about your identity? When you figure out the lies you believe, you can begin to reject them and replace them with the truth that comes from God’s Holy Word – the Bible. You can heal from these names you call yourself. You will begin to treat yourself as you treat others. Not name-calling, unless the name is from God.
Questions for prayer:
1. What are the bad names that I’ve believed about myself in the past? What is the lie and how can I heal from believing that lie?
2. Which of God’s names for me do I embrace most easily? Spend time in prayer pondering this identity and thanking God for giving it to you.