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Posts Tagged ‘reputation’

Acts 9:26
When he came to Jerusalem, he [Saul] tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.

Reputation is a tricky phenomenon. A good, strong reputation can be destroyed quickly while a bad reputation is almost impossible to reverse. Once a good reputation is ruined, it is even more difficult to recover from it.

Ten years ago, I remember an employee review where my supervisor indicated that I needed to be more tactful with co-workers and colleagues. I knew this was an important concern and although it was hard to accept, I took the criticism seriously and worked at changing that behavior. Unfortunately, despite all of my efforts, the person who gave me this criticism continues to refer to this trait of mine as a “given” to this day. In that person’s eyes, I am abrupt and tactless and nothing I do changes her mind about me.

My teen daughter suffered a far worse judgment when a boy began passing around lies about her in school. These misrepresentations were repeated over and over again and although she has not dated the young man for over three years, the “reputation” has persisted.

I’m sure we can all tell a story or two of how our action or inaction has caused a flurry of stories which built into a controversial or suspect reputation.

When I accepted the “way of Jesus” in my late twenties, everyone who knew me was shocked. My reputation precluded my being a candidate for becoming a follower of Jesus. Many people did not think it was authentic. Even my family accused me of fad-following.

Saul has been known as a persecutor of believers. He had disciples arrested, tortured, and eventually killed by the authorities. His first reputation was a huge hindrance to sharing his new-found faith after his conversation experience.

But Saul soldiered on. He eventually discovered his own niche in the story of Jesus. And slowly, over many years, his reputation changed.

Instead of trying to change his reputation through words, he let his actions speak for themselves. He accepted his past and even included it into his teaching. He became an example of the transforming power that the Messiah can have on a life.

It’s impossible to “make” someone trust you. Trust is built over time and consistency of actions.

I cannot change another person’s view of me. I can be authentic and steadfast. And I can trust the faithfulness of God to change the opinions of others over time.

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Acts 2:37b-38
“Brothers, what shall we do?” [the crowd] Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…”

Repent. It’s become such an inaccessible word over the years. It’s like a joke. How many times have we seen caricatures of “preachers” holding up a bible and shaking it over the crowd: “Repent you sinners!” Who can even hear the real message anymore?

And yet, it’s exactly “repent” that is the core to change. Repent is not just a religious term, it’s a personal experience. It’s a choice. Change… for good or evil… cannot happen without choice.

Personally, I find myself bemoaning over the same sins every day: gossip and judging others (to name two of the most popular). Both are extraordinarily nasty sins and I am ashamed to confess them. But the point here is that shedding these sins is not just about confession and the receiving of forgiveness… there is a point where I must “stop” and do something else instead.

Once, in counseling session some years ago, I was crying over these and other “besetting” sins (as though they have a mind and life of their own) and how I struggled with them. In the end, the revelation was simple: “I didn’t want it badly enough” … I didn’t want to change enough. I didn’t want to stop enough. The benefits of continuing were still outweighing the unknown of stopping. Who would I be if I stop this behavior? Who would I be if I change?

So often, people (including me) are more comfortable with our current state because it’s a “known.” But to change or “repent” means we are moving into an unknown territory. We are pioneering into a future we cannot predict. Fear, doubt, insecurities, anxiety also jump into the fray.

I am a bit of a hypocrite. I say I like change, but really, I mean change around me… I can adapt to that kind of change. But, I’m different when it comes to my own behaviors. Those changes are much easier to avoid.

So, today, one challenge: stop and turn away from gossip. If what I say cannot be said with the person standing there beside me, it shouldn’t be said. End of story.

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John 7:12
Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.”

I used to think that it was critical to maintain a good reputation. But the more I think about it, the more I realize it is impossible to do. How my actions or words are interpreted and cannot be controlled? From one person’s perspective, my behavior may seem erratic, loud, insensitive. From another person’s perspective, I am charming, spontaneous, and entertaining.

I can only be true to myself and subordinated to a God who will guide me from within … if I listen and comply. But my compliance and faithfulness will not control reputation. There is comfort in doing what I believe is right, but I can’t expect my actions or words to be universally accepted or understood.

For many years, I have been tossed about by the wind of reputation. I have worried too much about the opinion of others. I have been a chameleon, hoping to adapt to every situation and person. I feared the talk behind my back, the looks, the sudden quiet when I walk into a room.

But I see now, it is time to stand. “My shield is God Most High…” [Psalm 7:10a] and that must be enough. And as I stand, I will look for the path, the way, that is laid out before me, and I will make every effort to only take a single stepping stone at a time. Each step will have its challenges… the adversarial winds, the tempting sirens, the sluggish heat. Other steps will bring joy, comfort, and confirmation that I am on the right path.

My reputation is in God’s hands. So be it.

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