Character and Reputation

“Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Abraham Lincoln

When I saw this quote tweeted by @KevinMyersPK, senior pastor of 12Stone Church, I couldn’t wait to dig into it! So how can we live out this quote? Here are a few thoughts:

Your character determines your reputation. Think about it! A tree doesn’t get to determine what its shadow looks like. A scraggly pine can’t cast the shadow of a 100-year-old oak any more than we can determine what others will know or think or remember about us. So, rather than trying to shape our own reputation or others’ perception of how they see us, we should instead simply aim to be that person, to make it part of our character. If you want the reputation of being dependable, be that person your teammates know they can count on no matter what. If you want to be known as a hard worker, work hard all the time, not just when the boss is looking. You can’t directly influence your reputation, but you do determine your character.

Your reputation follows you. One of the exciting discoveries of young children is that of their shadow, and the fact that it follows them everywhere they go! Our reputation is the same; it’s ever present, not easily changed, and we cannot run from it. You might disagree with your reputation, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t what follows (and precedes) you everywhere you go. You cannot get rid of your reputation, but you can slowly, over time, earn a good reputation by being a person of character.

So you see, our reputation reflects our character, and our character shapes our reputation!

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