“Reputation is the shadow. Character is the tree. The shadow is what we think of it and the tree is the real thing.”
— ABRAHAM LINCOLN (1809–1865)
Times come and times go when we find ourselves either popular or maligned. Quick, it seems, our names may be dragged through the mud. Sometimes there is a basis for this, but most of the time people may be acting on misinformation or assumption or worse.
The reputation is quickly tarnished, but with faith our characters remain strong through testing ordeals.
When we are being attacked it is too easy to attack back, but the person of good character waits patiently and rebuilds their damaged reputation by the works of their hands and not by crafty works of the tongue.
Our characters are what are really real about us. If we become upset by the slings and arrows of those against us, and we cannot control our response, our character will be defined by the precise method of our response. That’s fair enough.
What good is it to respond in a way that we malign ourselves?
Why would we respond unwisely, when we want to build a good reputation based on what we think is our good character?
Defending ourselves a lot of the time is seen for what it is – usually concern more for reputation than for character. To be of true good character we must necessarily rely on God by faith. We must be patient. And being slow to anger, we build the reputation of sound character by those who directly know us.
Those who do not know us may believe what they are told. Apart from not being able to effect what people believe who don’t know us, what we don’t know shouldn’t hurt us anyway. We try to be more concerned with what we can easily control. What is beyond our control we need to accept is beyond our control.
Our focus should be on building a sound character by the inputs of our lives, not worrying so much about the results. If we invest in our relationships, and we learn to put others first, there is no doubt a good character is something we are developing.
But the best character test of all is when we are tested. In many ways we don’t know what our characters are truly like until we are in the pressure cooker of life.
It shouldn’t matter what others say about us, but oftentimes we get angry and respond unwisely. It’s better to trust God when people say negative things about us. If we keep responding well, by loving others, no matter what, we will become known by our deeds of goodness. And nobody can wrest that away.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.