Gotta love Joel Osteen. He and his Ministry have provided endless comfort and inspiration to their listeners and parishioners. His messages are basic, repeatable and applicable. He has a way of simplifying complex concepts so that so many of us can relate to the lessons he is imparting.

One of these lessons as I recall, from listening many years ago was “It’s not what they call you, it’s what you answer to” that matters. Now that I think about it, I believe “Madea’s” character also provided this same advice in one of Tyler Perry’s masterful block busters.

If you are like me you probably have many calls to choose from. With all the roles we play, there are a lot of identities we juggle. We are constantly triaging which calls, and which names we answer to. Here’s an example of my own from many years ago:

In my first year of high school, I was running in gym class, in a large circle around the borders of the gym. It was a co-ed group and I was awkward, clunky and still learning to inhabit my adolescent body. It seemed we would make several rounds of uninterrupted laps around the gym, until the bell rang and then would be off to our next class.

But I was wrong. It was not uneventful. I heard something that sticks with me to this day:

“Hey cow calves!”

It came from a boy’s voice right behind me. Assuming he was talking to someone else I kept moving. But he said it again. A couple of boys laughed then sped up and passed me. I don’t remember all of them. But I do remember the name I was called and it stuck with me all these years. To this day I wonder why I didn’t get those lean, strong and graceful legs my Mom has.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school. When it came time for prom, I was voted “queen” for all that was worth. But honestly, if I think back to that time of my life, I am more often “self conscious” about the “cow calves” reference than I am “fond” of the “prom queen” title.

If one stranger calling me a name can override an implied compliment by so many peers, how do I get my brain to connect with latter, and let the former fade? How do I apply the advice that teachers like Joel Osteen and Tyler Perry continue to provide? I think it will be different for all of us.

In my case, I use it as a hilarious reminder that I should guard my words carefully, so I don’t leave someone with a haunting comment that was unintended. Since I am human it still happens, but ultimately, descriptors like “cow calves”, “prom queen”, and “awkward teenager” are no more, or less of who I am, than I allow, answer to, or claim them to be.

Click to access the login or register cheese