refers to who you are. Reputation
refers to who people think you are. I generally care
more about who people think I am than who I really am. But Jesus
was not a person trying to keep a good reputation…he never tried to explain himself
for the sake of his reputation.”
(Emily Freeman, Grace for the Good Girl)
This beautiful book, Grace for the Good Girl, was introduced to me over a month ago by fellow blogger Lania at Southern Dreamer. And I am so grateful that she shared how much this book helped her!
(As a perfectionist raised in a conservative, Christian home, I have always been a ‘good girl’ who never caused problems and have often felt like my acceptance depended heavily on my performance. I am so familiar with the inside of that ‘good girl’ mask. I highly recommend this book and Lania’s pertinent review if any of this describes you. You won’t regret spending time on this blessing of a book!)
I have a confession to make. Freeman’s quote introduced an idea that I had never considered before:
Character is NOT the same thing as reputation and I had been focusing on the WRONG concept!
In the church and homeschooling communities where I grew up, reputation was almost everything. You were known by your family, your parents, and (yes, of course) your older siblings. 🙂 This was natural and normal for such a close-knit group. Reputation means a lot when a total stranger knows they can trust you because they have heard of your family. (Character was discussed and stressed as well, but it is so easy, I am learning, to confuse these two concepts.)
Who doesn’t want a good reputation? Being known as a hard-working, respectful, intelligent, and mature young person is a blessing in so many ways.
For me, however, a good reputation offered a unique set of pitfalls. A good reputation allowed me to hide my faults through my eagerness to please. A good reputation became a mask that slowly took over who I actually was. And a good reputation took the center stage of my focus, displacing the focus I should have put on my character.
Reputation was a performance for me. It was far too easy to make the whole thing about how good I could seem to be to others around me.
It is difficult to achieve a good reputation without some measure of excellent character as well. But, for me, when my reputation was my focus, I only addressed issues that were on the surface and obvious. Issues that others could see. It was too easy to ignore struggles and problems that only I knew about.
Because I had a good reputation, I tip-toed around whatever I didn’t want to deal with. I put on an act when I wanted to please and maintain that reputation, but all too often I was using it as a way to hide my faults instead of acknowledging them and then addressing them.
Being seen as a ‘good girl’ was more important than an actual relationship with God. Brokenness and acknowledging my faults did not line up with how I saw my good reputation.
I got so caught up in reputation (who people thought I was) that I missed so much character (who I actually am).
Reputation only covers things that others can see or hear about. Character matters even if I am the only person on the planet.
Reputation said, “What will people say?” and imprisoned me through others’ opinions. Character doesn’t worry about gossip because God and I know the truth.
Reputation can be blighted by one mistake. Character is mainly built and strengthened through failure/mistakes and then trying again.
I am not throwing out the importance of a good reputation. But I have realized that it is all too easy for reputation to be only skin deep. And it ceases to matter when there are no people to appreciate it.
I want to know who I am when there is no one else around. God does not care about my reputation. He doesn’t care about who others think I am. He knows my heart and it is my heart that I want to change. It is my character that I want to build.
I no longer want to choose my reputation over authentic character, authentic and vulnerable relationships, and authentic brokenness before Christ.
In the end, it is not who I am to other people that matters, it is who I am to my God.
© When Almonds Blossom, 2018