A lot people use a variety of words to designate and/or describe others. The fancy name for these tags, labels, and nicknames is monikers. Recently I’ve been thinking about monikers people use for me as well as those I use for others.
What we call others can be affirming and honoring or demeaning and shaming. All of us have probably been on the receiving end of both as well as on the giving end. Obviously affirming and honoring monikers are pleasant and encouraging, but demeaning and shaming ones are hurtful and embarrassing (even if the recipient does or doesn’t respond).
When it comes to demeaning and shaming monikers the well-known saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is clearly only partially true. Yes, sticks and stones may break bones, but words can also hurt.
Here are just a few monikers I have heard people called that can hurt: flake, lazy, weakling, fatty, cheater, and loser.
I remember well an important teaching and insight I learned in a class in Marriage and Family I took over 40 years ago. The professors (a wife and husband team) stressed the potential long term damage that can be inflicted upon a child who is called demeaning and shaming names. And it’s not just children who can be damaged by such names.
The term those professors used for parents labeling their children a variety of monikers was scriptwriting. By scriptwriting they were not referring to a dialogue for a skit or play, but rather planting a thought in a child’s mind of what he or she is and could grow into being.
Scriptwriting can plant a thought in a child’s mind that is hurtful and demeaning, but scriptwriting can also plant a thought in a child’s mind that is affirming, encouraging, and challenging (and realistic).
I think the same basic idea can also be true when it comes to adults – spouses, families, co-workers, friends, and others. The monikers and nicknames we use have the potential to be affirming and up building or discouraging and hurtful.
Here are a few of my favorite monikers people call me: Jan’s husband, dad, grandpa, friend, pastor, teacher, brother, and golf partner.
Hopefully we will keep in mind the potential power for positive or negative impact when it comes to monikers.
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