John Wooden said, “Your reputation is who people think you are, your character is who you really are”. So, what would it look like for us to have great character in 2012 and stop working on our reputation? Who really cares what people think? I learned this lesson several years ago. I ran into a person who worked endlessly on their reputation but had terrible character. When their character was revealed (which happens in intimacy) they were a complete letdown. The truth is, they wouldn’t have been a let down at all if they would have been themselves.
People don’t judge who we are, the judge who we’ve led them to believe we are. The more time and effort we put into making ourselves look great, the longer and harder the fall when the truth comes out. And eventually, the truth comes out. What I took from that relationship was difficult, but it’s something we have to face in our early twenties, usually, and that’s there’s a difference between our reputation and our character.
Since then, I’ve decided not to work very hard on my reputation. Or at least I hope that’s true.
I air most of my dirty laundry, so nobody will judge me. People only judge those who claim to be better than others, more holy, more righteous more moral. When I’m ethical, I just look good. When somebody who works on their reputation isn’t ethical, they find themselves in social court. Working on our reputation is just a dumb move. Here are some other reasons to have good character and not worry about our reputations:
- God rewards character, not reputation. To care about your reputation means you care more about public opinion than the opinion of God. I notice that some of my friends who work endlessly on their reputations never really advance in life, love, or their careers. People who work on their reputation “have their reward in full” meaning that God has no interest in rewarding them, but they will get people to be impressed by them and that’s about all they are going to get. This is the essence of “worldliness” even though it is wearing religious clothes. The worldly person gets their pleasure and redemption and religion from the world, a person who knows God doesn’t work for a human audience. Who cares what they think, honestly. Just do the right thing because it’s the right thing and let God reward you.
- If you present yourself as better than you are, you can’t have intimacy. People who lie about who they really are are socially bankrupt, lonely, and have a string of bad relationships. Why? Because they can’t let people know them. They are too busy trying to win in some kind of “game. ” Screw the game. Make friends. Settle for being medium great. Your heart will thank you.
- Tell the truth. There’s nothing more healing than living in the truth and presenting yourself as who you really are. It’s easier to sleep at night.
- When you work on your character, you’re working on the stuff that happens when nobody is looking. This is infinitely more difficult than misleading and deceiving people. But it’s the stuff that really sets you apart. It’s the stuff God rewards. What would your life look like if you stopped working on your reputation and started working on your character?
It seems that a number of things appear as “universal truths”… how do you identify them? By the fact that they keep showing up in different guises, repeated by different people at different times in history, but always with a core component no matter what individual spin is placed on the message. One of these that has been crossing my mind lately has been…. Character vs Reputation. A few famous people have made comments about this topic including famous US president Abraham Lincoln who said; “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow.
The shadow is what we think of it; the tree the real thing“ This is an appropriate analogy because a shadow shifts over time (just think of the daily cycle that the shadow goes through as the day progresses), the same can be said for all of us, what people think of us can change from time to time depending on what light is shining on us, and which way it casts the shadow, and where they are standing in relation to the source of the light. The tree, however, has put down roots, it goes through the daily cycle of shifting light, it goes through the seasons, growing, dropping it’s leaves, dealing with rain, hail, and shine.
It bends back and forth only so far in a gentle breeze but resists against a strong wind. The tree is what it is, regardless of the light being shone on it. Famous basketball coach John Wooden (as an aside I love his pyramid of success which you can find at his official site) put it this way… “be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are” the same message, but from a different perspective, but if you know anything about the history of Coach Wooden…. e helped build a lot of character into people, and by doing so earned himself an unenviable reputation. If you want to see him in action then take a look at this TED talk. How do you define character?
There are probably a thousand different ways that people would describe the character. James D Miles said “you can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him” and another unknown source said “everyone tries to define this thing called Character. It’s not hard. Character is doing what is right when nobody’s looking“ How do you build character? Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. Where are you focusing? Are you focusing on trying to build a reputation as something? or are you focused on doing what is right, and doing it regardless of whether anyone is watching? Are you laying down roots, or trying to cast the “right” shadow? While you are thinking about those questions let me leave you with another thought… You might be able to adjust the lighting conditions to influence the appearance of the shadow, but you can’t hide the tree!
Cite this Character vs Reputation
Character vs Reputation. (2016, Oct 02). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/character-vs-reputation/