In the last while, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to reflect on the difference between these two concepts- reputation and character. During a season of transition that seems to have stretched on forever, I’m slowly coming to the same conclusion as John Wooden, who penned the following adage:
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching”
It’s very easy to fall for the desire to be a people pleaser, especially in the workplace. Eight hours out of five out of seven days are spent with co-workers and employers; more time is spent with them than family in some cases. In a sense, they can become like a second family, albeit a dysfunctional one in many cases. We fight and we make up. We laugh and we cry. We gossip and sometimes we’re fodder for the gossip mill. Some relationships are strengthened by overcoming differences while others remain strained, never to be repaired by human efforts. As emotional beings, we find ourselves striving to be liked and seeking the approval of others. But when going with the flow and adopting workplace norms begin to chip away at your true identity, it’s time to take a step back. This is what has led me into the season I now find myself.
Choosing to please people more than God was eroding my foundation, making me cynical and sapping me of my joy. I was forfeiting my character in favor of my reputation. These things ought not be so. Blogger Donald Miller says,
“God rewards character, not reputation. To care about your reputation means you care more about public opinion than the opinion of God”
I don’t want to desire man’s approval more than Gods. I am acutely aware that in some circles I don’t have a good reputation. I’ve been accused of being too outspoken, too abrupt, and quite frankly, too Monica. But as Wooden says, your character is who you are when no one is watching. God is always watching, and He’s assured me that He has seen my true character when no one else has and He is pleased. If God is for me, who indeed can be against me? Instead of allowing my reputation and the opinions of others to define me, I’ve allowed God to use it all as the sandpaper to smooth out my rough edges. That’s how God builds our character–He truly is a master Carpenter.
As I write this, God is reminding me of a time in my childhood when I was running through the neighbour’s barn and I tripped. My outstretched palm landed on the sharp edge of a molasses tin lid, splitting my hand open. Bleeding and crying, I ran to the house. The farmer took me into the bathroom and sat me on the toilet seat. Grasping my little hand in his much larger weather -beaten one, while holding a bottle of iodine in the other, he warned, “This is gonna hurt, hon.”
Howling and squirming, I tried to break free of his grasp as he poured the orange liquid onto my wound. And then it was over. The bleeding had stopped, the wound was cleaned and patched with a fresh a bandage. It had still stung, but I had survived the ordeal.
Even as big kids we squirm and cry when God wants to heal our wounds. ‘No, it’s gonna hurt!!’ We insist. But He loves us too much to leave us with gaping wounds. We condemn ourselves for our perceived flaws but God convicts and corrects our character so we can better reflect His glory.
So in this season of change and transition, I have allowed the Father to tend to some open and tender wounds. Some of it has hurt–a lot in fact, but I’ve learned to trust Him. He knows me better than I do, and in the season of leaning and learning, I have discovered that I am much more confident in who I am, and more importantly Whose I am.
Yes and amen.