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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Reputation and Respect

Reputation and respect - two sometimes very contradictory states in life, right?  We can have anywhere from a disreputable to "holier-than-thou" reputation, but neither is really a well respected reputation.  We can have a pretty disreputable reputation in some individual's eyes and still be very well respected in our circle of influence, such as when a gang member is respected by those in his/her gang.  Reputation isn't always based on the "good" we do, but on the way and varied reasons people want to pay us honor.  We can gain respect by various means - not all of them honorable and upright.  Reputation can be good or bad, and sometimes at a point right in between.  Respect can be earned, but it can be lost quicker than it can be earned.  Maybe this is why scripture reminds us that reputation and respect are worth MUCH MORE than silver or gold - neither can really be bought, nor can either be maintained through our wealth or "status" in life!

A good reputation and respect are worth much more than silver and gold.   The rich and the poor are all created by the Lord.  When you see trouble coming, don’t be stupid and walk right into it—be smart and hide.  (Proverbs 22:1-3 CEV)

It is a sobering reminder to us of our dependence upon God when our writer says both the rich and poor are created by God.  Neither is "self-made"!  Our circumstances in life may be a little "self-made", but trust me - none of us really controls our reputation, nor the amount of respect we get from others.  Respect is given - because someone sees us through their eyes and set of values as worthy of our respect.  Someone else may not give us much respect simply because their set of values determines us to "rank" a little lower than what another may see us as.  In general, I think reputation and respect are kind of "transitional" characteristics in our lives simply because both can be changed in an instant!

Reputation is an "estimation" given by another - as their eyes take us in and experience what it is we say and do, they form an opinion of us.  Dangerous as this may be, it is how we have done "business" since the beginning of time.  An individual "sizes up" another and makes determinations ranging from how "beautiful" or "handsome" we are, to whether they want to be our friends or not.  As employers interview prospective employees, all kinds of opinions are being formed - not just those made because of what our resume reports, but because of how we interact, present ourselves, and whether we answer their questions in a satisfactory manner.  Estimation is sometimes situation - most of the time, in fact.  It is based on the need of the other individual at the time!

Did you find it odd that our passage would be including this issue of "seeing trouble" and then either responding in a moment of stupidity by walking right into it versus being "smart" and running away from it as fast as we can?  I think we often don't see the passage in context, so this is why I wanted us to see how the thoughts are laid out in our passage today.  Reputation and respect are often determined by how we handle the "trouble" life sends our way.  Some of the trouble we face is self-made, is it not?  When we are silly enough to cause our own trouble, it is kind of hard to walk away from it!  Yet other trouble is not within our control - when we get right up close and personal with trouble, what we determine to do with it in that moment is what will either maintain our "positive" reputation and build "respect" in the eyes of both others and ourselves!

Yep, we even form an opinion of ourselves and then we base how much we will respect ourselves according to that formed opinion!  Don't believe me?  Look in the mirror some morning, totally naked, and then say out loud the first thing which comes into your mind.  If we were to be honest here, how we see ourselves is based on the opinion we have formed in our minds.  This opinion can be based on fact, such as I have too much fat content in my body's make up, to fiction, such as believing we are not valued because we are "fluffier" than others with more toned bodies!  Where did these opinions come from?  Both from within ourselves and from what we believe others think about us!  Sometimes it is also what others have said about us!  In turn, we form a "reputation" in our minds - one which may not be very realistic and definitely "defines" the amount of respect we give ourselves in turn.

So, before we get all wigged out about the reputation of another, let's examine what it is we believe about ourselves.  What does God say about us?  First, he says we are created in his image!  Second, he says we matter enough to him to give up his one and only Son to redeem us from this life of mixed up mess we have created of it!  Third, he says we find our hope in him and him alone!  Fourth, he says nothing can separate us from his love!  Fifth, he says nothing can stand against us (not even us)!  Now, when we begin to get an accurate picture of our "reputation" in God's eyes, maybe we will begin to let go of the reputation we have formed of ourselves which really doesn't align with his!  Just sayin!