Nicknames and Identity Brands
Our pastor recently started a sermon series on the biblical character, Barnabas. If you know the story of Barnabas, you know that his name was Joseph. Barnabas was a nickname, meaning, “Son of Encouragement.” What a great nickname! Every story that we ready about Barnabas is a story of encouragement. He clearly embraced his identity as an encourager.
All of us have a nickname and when we identify with it, it defines us. It may not be a nickname by which we are called, but it is an identity that informs how we think of ourselves. Instead of referring to it as a nickname, perhaps we can think of it as our “identity brand.” It is the way that we think of ourselves that impacts our self-esteem, our personality, our goals, and our willingness to risk.
Some of us have an identity brand that is not be the best expression of our self. Perhaps we heard early in life that we were selfish, or that we were lazy, or that we were stupid, or that we were ugly, and we believed it. As a result, we have lived into that identity. For example, I learned early in life that I am not good in math. I struggled with math all through school. I knew going in to every math course that I was going to struggle and I did. Years later, as a part of my graduate work in counseling, I took some abilities inventories and discovered, to my great surprise, that I have a high aptitude for math. Go figure! I heard somewhere that I couldn’t do math and sure enough, I couldn’t do math. What if I had heard that I was capable in math? What if I had believed it and identified with that belief? What if I had lived up to the aptitude that God had given me in the beginning?
Is it possible to change your identity brand? I am not suggesting that just by positive thinking you can become something that you were not intended to be. But I do believe that we can be the best self that we were intended to be. Take some time to reflect on what you believe about yourself and ask, “Is this true about me? Do I have to believe this? Is this my best self? Can I choose to be better? Is this the brand that I want?” As you reflect, you might discover that there is a better you waiting to be expressed, a new identity waiting to be expressed, a new nickname to be owned.
Thank goodness that Barnabas believed that he was an encourager. Otherwise, we might not have ever had the Apostle Paul or the Evangelist of Mark. Both of them were the benefactors of Barnabas’ identity brand.