Yes, I’m going to nuance that headline in a second, but let it sit there for a second.
You don’t need a good reputation.
You may think you do, but in reality it’s not a pressing need, particularly for the Christian. More often than not, reputation merely gets in the way.
Reputation is concerned with other’s perception of us. It answers the question: What do they think of me?
But you really have no control over how people think of you. When you obsess over reputation, you are making it your goal to obtain something that will never be truly yours.
Is that really how you want to live your life—overly concerned with how others view you? Chasing after a good reputation places us at the whims of those around us. That’s never a good place to be.
Even if our desire is to have a godly reputation, we are still missing the point. Ultimately, what does it matter if everyone around you thinks you are an obedient follower of Christ, if underneath that’s not the case?
That’s why you don’t need a good reputation. What you need is good character.
Reputation is who people think you are. Character is who God knows you to be. While there should be little difference between the two, we all know that is often far from the case.
You know someone whom everyone else believes to be a great person, but you’ve seen them for who they really are. Maybe, that someone is you.
We can subtly slide from trying to develop Christlike character to cultivating a godly reputation. I’ve written before about the dangers of “reputation parenting,” but those desires can infect virtually every area of your life.
A reputation is a fine thing to have, but it is eternally worthless without the character to support it. In fact, a false reputation can become a legalistic weight, a self-made pressure under which we will collapse.
When we have taken the shortcut of capturing a reputation without the character foundation to match, all of the time we “saved” is spent trying to keep our mask on in all the right places.
It is exhausting trying to preserve a good reputation apart from good character. We can fool people for a long time, but eventually the mask will slip, our character will be exposed, and the reputation will be shown for what it really was—a lie.
In the end, you don’t need a good reputation.
It will come and go depending on the moods and perspective of others. It can fall away when the mask slips down for a moment.
We’ve seen far too many leaders, good leaders, Christian leaders, fall under the weight of a reputation unmerited by their character.
If character is consistent, reputation almost always follows. So stop running after reputation and start chasing character.
Because you still don’t need a good reputation, but we all desperately need good character.