Nickname issues, and name discernment/being “at odds with the Holy Spirit”

I had a really interesting email from a reader, and she’s eager to hear what you all think! She writes,

I’ve read your post on name regret, and I was wondering if you had ever considered doing a post on name discernment. My husband and I have a name we both like for our first child (due in 10 weeks!), except I cannot stand the nickname variant! Bad associations I guess. There are many great reasons to use this name, and it feels right in so many ways with all the connections we have with it, particularly when compared to our other frontrunners (which we both like quite a bit, but don’t feel as right). However, we cannot get over the nickname impasse with this original name — he doesn’t like the idea of using the full name or alternate nicknames on a regular basis, and I don’t think I could see using the traditional nickname. Have people ever run into this type of situation? Did they go with the name that felt most right, even if they didn’t like it, per se? Trust in the Holy Spirit and hope you grow to like it? With this being our first, I’m just not sure what to think.”

Interesting questions, right? I really see it breaking down into two questions: (1) How do we handle using a formal name that we both love that has seemingly inevitable nickname issues that we can’t agree on? And, as this mama put it later in her email, (2) What did you do if you ever had a time when your “preferences were perhaps at odds with the Holy Spirit”?

I gave this mama my own thoughts to No. 1, which were basically along the lines of “if you go with the name they both like — which seems to be, from her email, just what they’re feeling called to — the rest of it will shake out.” Do you agree? Do you have experiences of your own like this?

As for No. 2, I’m interested to see what you all will say! I’ve had experiences myself where things happened that seemed to make obvious what the baby’s name was *supposed* to be, things just fell in place in a really providential way, and it was kind of thrilling to really feel like we’d done it — we’d found the name that was meant just for him! And we know there are times when God actually does say, “This is what the baby’s name will be.” (Jesus.) But at the same time, I also think that God uses our preferences and tastes and styles for His purposes, so that second question gets kind of tricky, and I can totally see it setting up a situation where name regret might occur. And it’s all based so much on feelings — which name feels right and which doesn’t — and feelings can definitely be helpful, but they can also be wrong and/or misleading. Also, being “at odds with the Holy Spirit” sounds very grave, but in regards to naming one’s baby, I don’t think it’s quite as heavy or binding. After all, as Pope Francis said in Amoris Laetitia, “For God allows parents to choose the name by which he himself will call their child for all eternity.” (166)

So lots to think about here, and we’d love to hear your thoughts! I’ve done a few other posts that kind of swirl around this topic as well and which might be helpful — they’re listed in this post.

Updated to add: How timely! I was just catching up on email, and one of you wonderful readers sent me the link to this article: One in five mothers say they chose wrong name for their child, poll finds. It was definitely an interesting read, and my biggest takeaway was that sometimes name regret happens and there’s not much that can be done about it (e.g., little girls named Isis and Elsa just before those names took on huge obvious associations, or kids that grew up to dislike their names), which I feel like might help reduce the stress associated with picking the *right* name, since sometimes it’s taken right out of your hands, no matter what precautions you take. Rather than being a terrifying thought, it’s kind of a soothing one to me! So just pray and do the best you can.