Reputation and Character

Originally published in July 1994

I don’t know the source for this profound poem but it is something that marks my life.

"Reputation is what you are supposed to be. Character is what you are.

Reputation is a photograph. Character is your face.

Reputation is what you have when you come to a new place. Character is what you have when you go away.

Reputation is learned in an hour. Character does not come to light for years.

Reputation is made from a single newspaper report. Character is built from a life of toil.

Reputation makes you rich or poor. Character makes you happy or miserable.

Reputation is what men say about you on your tombstone. Character is what the angels say about you around the throne of God."

 That is pretty profound, isn't it?Put that on your wall somewhere.

A couple years ago I was given some backstage passes for a concert of one of my all-time favorite Christian bands.(If you know me fairly well, this is an easy guess.)I took a couple of my youth and we felt like big shots as we hobnobbed among the different musicians.

The lead singer that night was wearing a shirt with the word "Love" across the front in some '60s-swirly lettering.The "o" of the word was in the shape of a heart with the broken cross/peace sign in the center.

Here goes the ongoing debate.Is that symbol just a peace sign or is it a satanic sign?But that is not the purpose of this story.

Whatever side of the debate you are on, because such a symbol is controversial, should this symbol be worn on stage in front of a crowd of excited Christians, particularly impressionable youth?

While hobnobbing, I overheard another person ask this lead singer why he was wearing that shirt.He said he knew of the controversy but he liked it and he liked the message of love and peace.He said if a few were offended, oh well.They are too uptight.This is my paraphrased version.

I was offended.

This was an issue of integrity to me.Was wearing a shirt that one particularly liked worth wearing on a stage where one's image is as important as one's message.The gospel is offensive enough without having our attire be offending also.I'd rather have the gospel be offensive than my attire.On what level was this person's integrity?Was it on a high enough level to be ministering to people?

Glenn Kaiser of REZ made the following comments in reference to looking back on the past twenty years of REZ:"I remember sitting on a hillside in Southern Michigan and sharing with Wendi (Kaiser's wife and co-lead vocalist of REZ) the vision I had for the band.I did a lot of praying, a lot of interviewing with pastors in the area, I read all the anti-rock tracts that were circulating.I was very thorough because I knew we would be challenged.I knew we were going to have to be six times as committed to the Word, we were going to have to be ten times as personally holy, we were going to have to maintain that kind of standard because of the very nature of the thing that I felt God was calling me to go into had no precedent."(CCM, July, 1992).

In twenty years I have never heard of REZ being accused of a sinful, road lifestyle, a watered down message or suggestive moves or clothing during their shows.In fact these days, REZ is treated with respect as a band who has grandfathered a new style of Christian music.Too bad many of their grandchildren haven't lived up to the precedent REZ has set.

While the first band may have a reputation, REZ has character."Reputation is learned in an hour.Character does not come to light for years."

I still have all of this Christian band's tapes, usually just after they are released.But I also have a question mark in the back of my brain about one member's integrity.

Let us strive to never leave someone with that question mark in the back of their brain when they think of us or of Jesus.Let us strive to be six times as committed to the Word and ten times as personally holy.Let us strive for character which is what you have when you go away.Often we are Jesus with skin-on to the people we meet.

I have the hardest time having new promotional photos taken of me.What comes out after developing is a slick, happy, together person who looks like me, kind of.The image that picture holds is far from the me that I feel I am.That is because character is my face, not a photograph.

With whatever we are doing, we are continually having to put out our reputation to succeed.Our reputation may open the doors but it is our character which will change lives.Our character is what we should be continually working on and be thinking about in every little decision we make.Isn't that what integrity is?The choices we make when no one else may know we are making those choices.

In the movie, City Slickers and also the sequel, Mitch and his friends are on a cattle drive vacation trying to figure out their lives.On this cattle drive they learned the secret of life from Curly, the old, salty, and wizened cowboy who led the cattle drive.Curly told them the secret of life is one thing.One thing--whatever what that one thing may be for you.

When you have discovered that one thing, every decision you make in your life will affect that one thing.No short cuts can be taken, no bad decisions can be made in secret, which won't effect that one thing.