• Karen Baney

What's in a Name?

If you ask Romeo, he will tell that a rose would smell just as sweet should it have some other name.

We name everything: our pets, our kids, our imaginary friends, and some people even name their cars.

Does a name classify a person or thing in some way? What is the significance of a name? Does a name make you who you are?

My husband and I were flying back from a vacation when our flight was delayed. This woman who was with an older man kept saying, “You don’t know me!” It must have been half a dozen times as we waited for our flight. Then once more on the plane. And once when we landed in Phoenix. We never did find out why she kept saying this. All we knew was that it seemed very important to her that somehow, she felt unknown or misunderstood.

As the mass media and social media make my name the butt of jokes and a symbol for racism, I find myself saying what this woman did, “You don’t know me!”

My name, Karen, means “pure”. My parents gave me this name on purpose to represent how our lives are washed clean and we become pure when we accept Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. Like me, they are devout Christians. When it came to naming their children, they thought long and hard about what those names meant.

I have always struggled with this name because I have felt less than pure. It is not a name that I can live up to on my own. It is only through faith in Jesus Christ that I could hope to try.

I have also learned that a name does not make me who I am. My personality and personal experiences growing up in a lower middle-class home have shaped me. My faith has shaped me. My life events, my struggles, and successes have contributed to who I am.

My name does not define who I am any more than the color of my skin does. These are both irrelevant factors in how I live my life and what I believe.

Incidentally, I believe in the constitution, that “all men are created equal”. I believe in diversity of thought, perspective, and character. I believe that the American Dream is truly available to us all and I have done my best to live it out in my own way.

I do not believe in discriminating against someone because of the color of their skin, their gender, or the name they were given at birth.

So, on behalf of all Karen’s of all races, I say, “You don’t know me!” What you are telling the world about my name is not true. It is not representative of me or of the Karen’s I know. If you look deep down, I think you will see it is not true of the Karen’s that you know either.

But, for those of you bent on using my name in vain and to mean something other than what it does, I am not surprised. There is One who’s name has been used in vain for far longer and with much more disgust than my own. Since He forgives you, so will I.

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