The Response Elicited by the Name on a Letter

The name of the addressee written on an envelope produces a certain emotional and behavioral response. Our heart sinks if we see the initials IRS. The addressee printed on most mail consigns it to the trash. A letter from a special friend prompts warm emotions and eagerness to open it.

Imagine the multi-dimensional reaction by the Philippians as they read that first word, “Paul.”

The Philippian response no doubt included a sense of awe at this communication from the apostle responsible for the spread of Christianity across a significant segment of the Roman Empire. His name also prompted them to reflect on his authority, which he exercised sparingly but without hesitation when needed. Perhaps their most pervasive response was elicited by the recollection of the love and care he displayed in shepherding them. Aware of his imprisonment and having sent a gift to help meet his needs, they also approached the letter with eagerness to hear of his well-being.

As we know from the letter, its content reinforced these reactions and drew on them to motivate an appropriate response to Paul’s directives. Reading his name prepared them for the content that followed.

As I reflect on the Philippian response as they read Paul’s name, I wonder how various people respond when they spot my name on an envelope or email. Do they feel bothered, annoyed, happy, interested, indifferent, or experience some other emotion? Does it prompt them to respond positively to what I write or disregard it? An analysis of the response by people we write tells us a lot about ourselves. If accurate, and if we take it to heart, it can motivate us to make positive changes. Take a minute to evaluate the response that your name elicits.

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