Thoughts About the Difference Between Character and Reputation
Reputation isn't everything. Character is much more important. A reputation that is gained without character is hypocrisy. A reputation that grows out of a good character is simply giving honor to whom honor is due.
Character is within your power. Reputation is a thing over which you have little control.
Character cannot be taken away from you by any man. Reputation can be stolen from you by liars.
Striving for character is strength. Aiming solely at reputation is weakness. Character endures difficulty.
Reputation seekers are confused when difficulty arises. Character seeks to do what is right.
Reputation seekers seek to do what is acceptable to the most mortals.
Integrity, honesty, clarity, and honor are valued by men and women of Character. Vagueness, indistinct communication, and craftiness are hallmarks of reputation-seekers.
The man with character can stand alone when duty calls upon him to do so. The reputation seeker will not stand alone under any circumstances.
The man with character tries to clearly and honestly speak the truth and openly invites others to examine it. The reputation seeker aims at acceptance and therefore makes vague statements that can be interpreted in ways acceptable to the hearer.
The man of character speaks the truth as clearly and kindly as he is able at all times and under all circumstances. The reputation seeker speaks the truth with boldness only when he is assured that those who are significant to him will applaud.
The man of character is often out in front, regardless of who is following. The reputation seeker cannot lead the way because he cannot move in any direction until he is assured that the army is already headed that way.
The reputation seeker is confused by the man of character. He tends to assume that all men are motivated as he is and he attempts to manipulate others by dangling before them the golden carrot of approval and by goading them on with the spear of disapproval. His arguments are often shallow and when he cannot convince others with reasonable discussion he attempts to intimidate with threats of harming the reputation of the man of character. He is shocked, perturbed, and disgusted when his petty attempts at coercion are ignored by the one who is examining his own heart and his own Bible rather than opinion polls.
The godly man of character has a genuine light that shines for all the world to see. When right-thinking men see it they glorify God (Matthew 5:16). The reputation seeker has no real light, but he works very hard at giving the impression that he does. His artificial light changes color as it radiates in different directions. It is adjusted so that men who see it will glorify him.
Sometimes men of character deservedly own a fine reputation among men. This is desirable above great physical wealth (Proverbs 22:1). But a fine reputation is not to be desired above character. False teachers have always enjoyed fine reputations among some segment of the people (Luke 6:26). They, along with other hypocrites of their stripe, have traded character for reputation and have received the only reward they will ever see (Matthew 6:1-21). Only a man of character can "rejoice and be exceedingly glad" when he is wrongly persecuted and when men say all kinds of evil against him falsely because of his practice of Christianity (Matthew 5:10-12). The reputation seeker will fall apart at such times.
Only the man of character can truly teach and practice the truth without partiality (1 Timothy 5:21, James 3:17). He is not moved by the potential influence of his hearers upon the opinions of others. He does not challenge the sins of those without influence while ignoring those of opinion leaders. All are treated equally by him. The reputation seeker "pets the big dogs" and kicks the helpless ones if doing so will please the "big dogs."
Reputation seekers tend to, sometimes subtly, point at their degrees and awards hanging on the walls and suggest that you ought to respect their opinions because they have been respected by influential men in high places. Men of character point at the Bible and suggest that God's word is alone worthy of your trust and that all opinions ought to be weighed upon God's scales.
Men of character are able to say, "I was mistaken" when they are able to discover errors in themselves. They clearly defend what they have said or done when they are accused of errors that they, themselves, cannot detect. Reputation seekers, on the other hand, are quick to say that they have been "taken out of context" even when their words clearly mean what they appear to mean when placed in their context. Their "clarifications" are often very imprecise and unclear. Since many approved of them for what they did say they cannot retreat from it. Since some disapprove of what they said they cannot directly own it. Their fence-straddling seldom wins for them the approval of both sides and it often backfires and causes them to earn the displeasure of both. Honesty and consistency go out the window when reputation is the goal. They are obvious and apparent when character is the objective.
Work to become a man or woman of character. Begin on the inside. The outside will follow. Those who love truth and right, though they be few, will love you. God will love and reward you. When you look in the mirror you will be able to approve of what you see. The transient applause of men cannot match the authentic approval of heaven or that of your own conscience.