(Proverbs 22:1, NLT) Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold.
“An’ I don’t really care
If ya think I’m strange
I ain’t gonna change
An’ I’m never gonna care
‘Bout my bad reputation!”
(Bad Reputation by Joan Jett)
This probably should’ve been my theme song when I was a teenager. I was painfully apathetic about what others thought of me, and my reputation from that time in my life still lingers a little. I have learned, the hard way of course, that it is a harsh reality of life that your reputation will most likely follow you for many years. Even when you grow out of old habits, make amends, and rebuild those long-ago burned bridges, the stories and memories can remain a tarnish on your image.
We live in a world where anything goes, and it’s so easy to get caught up in alternative ways of thinking and feeling like you just don’t care what anyone thinks about you. I remember thinking the same thing many times. It can be exhausting and frustrating having to stop and actually think before you say or do something. When I was a teenager, the last thing on my mind was what someone would think about my choices. But…then I grew up! I started to realize that, especially (and most importantly) because I am a Christian, I am under a microscope. I had to accept the fact that my reputation matters. My choices matter. I had to accept this, and then I had to make concentrated efforts to choose to build for myself a better reputation.
The Bible tells us (in Philippians 1:27), “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Our actions not only affect our own lives and futures, but they also reflect upon God Himself, and they indirectly affect those with whom we are associated. We are called to be shepherds and to testify of the goodness of God, but how can we ever expect to be taken seriously if we have only negative reputations as our foundations?
The truth is, we all have a circle of influence. For some of us, it’s so big we could never even begin to imagine all of the people within our reaches; then for others it consists of just family and/or a few friends. Yet however big or small your circle is, you do have influence in the lives of others…whether you realize it or not. You may not like it, and you may not want that kind of responsibility on your shoulders, but it’s yours all the same. When you carry the name of Christ, that is part of the deal.
Please understand, the expectation is not perfection. That’s just unrealistic, and I fully believe that God, in His infinite grace and love, is a realistic and merciful Father. He sees our limitations and failures for what they are before we ever even experience them. So no, we aren’t expected to go without error. However, the expectation is that we strive toward holiness.
In 2 Corinthians 7:1, Paul urges us, “Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.”
So let us rise to the occasion, so to speak, and let us rise above the past. We know that the best we can do is do the next best thing. So let us focus on what is in front of us, and on those who are around us. We can build holy and righteous testimonies for ourselves, creating reputations that outshine the shadows of our pasts, when we choose to care what others think of us.
Prayers: Heavenly Father, let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight. I know there is nothing I can do about the past, but I choose holiness, and I choose to move forward as a light in the darkness and a beacon of Your love to those within my circle of influence. Amen.