One day at a parent-teacher conference many years ago when my middle daughter was in second grade, the teacher, as usual for such an occasion, told my wife and I about the things the class had been doing. The class had been reading some Winnie the Pooh books and the kids were to talk about which Pooh character they liked the most and why. Since my daughter, Charissa, is a very outgoing and bouncy type of person I was certain that she would immediately say that Tigger was her favorite. But instead she responded with Eeyore. Okay. Not what I would have guessed. Why? Charissa explained, “Because Eeyore reminds me of my Daddy.”
Ouch. I wasn’t ready for that one. Yet, as I thought about Charissa’s answer I began to see that since I was working as a supervisor in a factory, going to grad school at night, and being a part-time minister in my local church had left me drained to the point that whenever my daughter saw me it was as if I was Eeyore just loping about the house with a pinned-on tail. Before that parent-teacher conference encounter I never would have described myself as my daughter did. Obviously, my reputation did not match my own perception of myself.
You and I need to periodically struggle with the question: What is your reputation with others? Notice the question is not: What do you think your reputation is? The only way to know your reputation is to interact with other people. And their answers may be very different than what you think they might be.
One way to get at your reputation is who or what you associate yourself with. For example, whenever I have conversations with people who are not church attenders, I will often ask something like: “So, what do you know about church?” “Do you know any church people?” “What is one word that you would use to describe the church?” The answers to those questions usually reveal a great deal of what they think of me, a Christian and a Pastor – two major hats that I wear all the time.
What should you do if there is a clear disconnect between what someone or some group says about you, and what you think is true about you? First, please do not ever dismiss another person’s thoughts or opinions, especially if you don’t agree with them. Sure, you might not like what they say, but we need to weigh the words and glean as much wisdom as we can from it. Second, if it is a negative perception, or truly off the mark, use the information to help inspire you toward change. Third, if there are things that you know need changing, think about what kind of reputation you want to have and begin setting some goals for achieving what you want. Begin with the results you want, and then focus on the small steps you can do to gain what you’re after.
There is yet one more critical question to continually ask: What is your reputation with God? The way you answer that question is paramount and requires the utmost honesty. Your approach is the same: ask God himself. Pray. Read Scripture, especially the Prophets, and the first three chapters of Revelation. No individual Christian or church congregation can ever hope to glorify God and have effective ministry in their community unless they are genuine and urgent about where they stand before God and what their reputation is with people outside of church. Resist the temptation of only thinking about or talking the subject to death; and, instead determine to set a plan of action.
Be brave. Be vulnerable. Be real. Don’t assume that others, including your family, think highly of you. Ask the questions of reputation. Use them to spawn the kind of interaction that is needed to help address what God wants for your life. If you don’t want to be Eeyore, do something about it. For me, it meant completely reassessing my use of time so that I could be more fully present to my family. What will it mean for you?