the praises of men

thoughts on honor and reputation

Mike, over at Simply A Night Owl, recently quoted Abraham Lincoln, who said this: "Character is like a tree and reputation is like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing." That stuck with me, and I've been kicking it around in my head for a couple of days now.

It reminded me of something Rob (over at The Spyglass) said in one of his political posts that I actually read and sort of understood - applauding anyone really, for "caring about the reality of honor so much that you're willing to let your reputation swing in the wind." He goes on to say, "As the sci-fi/fantasy author Lois McMaster Bujold has one of her characters say, "Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself. Guard your honor; let your reputation fall where it may."

Reputation. Oh, my goodness... How often do we inadvertently get caught up in our concern for our reputation?

Jake quoted Rick Joyner from his book, The Prophetic Ministry, to me the other day as we were chatting: "If we are to accomplish the purposes of God, we must come to the level of maturity where "the love of Christ controls us" (2 Cor 5:14). Love does not take into account wrongs suffered and is not motivated by rejection, which drives us to retaliation or trying to prove ourselves."

To which I said, "Huh. I never thought about trying to prove myself being a reaction to rejection... tho i suppose that makes sense... preservation against it and all that... Part of this whole "being way too concerned with my reputation" thing that God's been driving home for months now is an almost desperate need to be understood- i knew both things existed, but i didn't realize they were connected until just now..." And I don't think I really had.

But it's true - I so just want people to "get" me, and it drives me crazy when I think they don't.

But reputation is just smoke and mirrors - illusion, subjective. And while I want people to think well of me, I need to become okay with the possibility that they won't. Not all people thought well of Jesus - but He didn't live for the praises of men, although He certainly deserved them. He lived for God's honor and glory, and that is how I want to live. It is how I want to be known by God - as a woman of honor and integrity, as someone who puts Him first, before anything or anyone else. And while I would love for the reputational shadow I cast to be representative of the honorable tree I would like to be (Psalm 1, Jeremiah 17:7-8) - I'd rather just be the tree... standing strong, being steady no matter what winds, storms, or whatnot may come, bringing God all the honor and glory due His Name for Who He is. I need to be living for His opinion of me, and not anyone else's. Until I really start doing that, I'm not going to be able to kick this fear of failure thing I've been wrestling with for years, and writing about since December.

So again I say, "Oh, Lord, help!" and "Thank You for grace."



Rob said...

The nice thing about the Lincoln quote is that it emphasizes this truth: so the tree's shadow waxes and wanes with the movement of the sun, which it cannot control, so the degree to which our reputation accurately reflects our character depends on factors beyond our control. If a tree tried to bend to keep its shadow large, all it would do is warp or even break itself.

To give Aral Vorkosigan his head a little further: "There is no more hollow feeling than to stand with your honor shattered at your feet while soaring public reputation wraps you in rewards. That's soul-destroying. The other way around is merely very, very irritating."

Good reflections. God is continuing to do and prepare a wonderful work in you.

Happy said...

Who knew extreme irritation could be so positive? :)

I probably should know this, but... who's Aral Vorkosigan?

Mike said...

Great Post Happy!!!

You know what I do for a living so it should come as no surprise that I have quite a reputation, and not a good one. (Of course, that depends on who you talk to). I am comfortable with that though. Like I said, it's what I do, it's not who I am.

Keep the faith.

Rob said...

Here's hoping fourth time is the charm--your blog didn't like me last night . . . Aral Vorkosigan is the character I quoted earlier, one of the protagonists of Lois McMaster Bujold's first novel, and the father of her best-known character, Miles Vorkosigan (to whom those words are addressed). We never managed to get you hooked on Bujold's stuff, I guess; I think you'd probably enjoy a lot of it, though.

BTW, Samuel Logan Brengle is by way of being a family hero of ours--he was to Nana and Grandpa, and very much is to my Uncle Jerry as well; to the extent that, when Nana died, one of the things they wanted to make sure happened was that I got her copy of at least one of his books. If I can dig it up (I'm still figuring out where things got unpacked to), you're welcome to borrow it.

Ruth said...

Hey, my comment got lost too. Okay I will try to remember what it was.

" not motivated by rejection, which drives us to retaliation or trying to prove ourselves."

I so relate to that. I can't even count the times I get defensive because of my rejection issues...trying to prove myself.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 tells me that the tree firmly planted "never fails to bear fruit". I can trust that when I am firmly planted I will bear good fruit. However, I can't control if people will like my fruit.

Happy said...

Mike... I can only imagine! :) Do you ever drive down the road and just laugh at all the people who see you coming and panic, even when they're not doing anything? :)

Thanks for being a justice-bringer. (And a night owl.) :)

Ruth... that's such a great perspective. I've shared this with any number of people this year as I've counseled them about various things: someone told me once that you can't control how someone will respond to you - you can only control what you do and say. So do your best to honor the Lord in your interactions with everyone, and leave the results with Him. If they respond badly - it's their issue, not yours.

I wonder sometimes tho - at least about fruity things - if the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control - won't people like it? Oughtn't they to? I mean, you'd have to be a bit off your nut to not like someone that pleasantly fruity...

Rob... I'd love to borrow. One of these days, I WILL make it up for a weekend. I'm seriously thinking about taking a month off of church stuff, probably in May. Tho I'd dearly love to see you all sooner than that...

I'll let you know. But remind me to remind you to go look for it closer to my actual travel dates. :)

Rob said...

I wonder sometimes tho - at least about fruity things - if the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control - won't people like it? Oughtn't they to? I mean, you'd have to be a bit off your nut to not like someone that pleasantly fruity...

It sure worked for Jesus, didn't it? :\

Happy said...

Oy. My blog doesn't like me either. It ate my comment, too... :P

Um... what did I SAY? (it was 5 minutes of course, it's GONE now...)

i think it was something to the effect of:

wow. i hadn't thought of it like that. Makes sense that Jesus, being God, and perfect, bore all the fruits of the Spirit well. Didn't really ever consider that truth before in a way that stuck in my head, I guess...

But it touches on something that came up in my studies this weekend - studying Matthew 5:43-4 and the whole concept of loving your enemies... who are they (or who's your neighbor for that matter) and is it possible to love your enemy and still set them straight on something? Jesus, being loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, gentle, good, faithful, and self-controlled - called the Pharisees white-washed tombs to their faces. And told them where to get off on more than one occasion... Hm...

Probably food for another post at this point... :)

Ruth said...

Good question about "fruity things" and why people just don't see good fruit. I think Rob pretty much answered it. Jesus offended many people and they didn't see good fruit when it was right in front of their face.

In our own lives, people might be offended by our fruit because of their own blindness and issues. Sometimes they make judgements from afar, not being close enough to see our real fruit. Sometimes they know us from our past but don't know how we've changed.

However I think, generally, the tree shows its fruit, and most people will recognize our fruit as good(if in fact it is good but that's another issue). But we shouldn't get anxious if a few nutty people don't get us. As long as the Lord does.

Now the part about being able to speak truth in love - you're right- it's a whole different post. I personally am always looking for ways that it can work well. So go for it.

Happy said...

Ha... I think I will. :) Got to get the term paper written first tho, so my apologies, everyone, for leaving you hanging... Feel free to write your own thoughts on the subject, tho. :)