Character, Reputation, and the Difference
Another leader is in the news recently for a moral failure. All of the details of his situation are not yet known and perhaps never will be, at least not fully. Apart from being well known to fans of college football, there is also the matter of his Christian faith. For a large number of people, he was looked up to as one of the models of publically living out the Christian faith.
Character is the mental and moral qualities of an individual. It is the property that defines the apparent nature of something or someone. In other words, character is the inherent complex of attributes that determine a person’s moral and ethical actions and reactions to a given situation. Character is who a person really is when no one else is around.
Reputation is simply the beliefs or opinions others have about an individual. This general opinion or judgment about a person can be positive or negative and is influenced by what is known about the character of a given individual. When someone regularly volunteers at a ministry that serves food to the needy, that becomes part of a person’s reputation. When someone gives generously of their financial resources, that becomes part of a person’s reputation. It has been my experience that reputation takes a rather long time to build and can be impaired or even destroyed by a single action.
Here is what I see happening repeatedly among those in the public eye: the success they enjoy insulates them from the accountability everyone needs in their lives. This results in individuals who become more concerned about their reputation than they are about the character that underpins it. Reputation becomes the important factor in perpetuating success. For those who are followers of Jesus Christ, this dangerous combination inevitably results in the loss of position, the loss of influence, and often the loss of important relationships.
Somewhere along the way, some leaders allow reputation to become more important than character. I think character is always more important than reputation. In fact, it is my belief that if leaders will focus on their character, really concern themselves with being the godly men they are called to be, their reputations will take care of themselves.