What a character!
A good reputation is better than much wealth; high esteem is better than silver and gold. The rich and the poor have this in common: the Lord made them both. Prudent people see trouble and hide, while the simpleminded go right to it and get punished. The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord is wealth, honor, and life. Thorns and nets are in the path of the crooked; those who guard their lives keep their distance. Train children in the way they should go; when they grow old, they won’t depart from it. The wealthy rule over the poor; a borrower is a slave to a lender. Those who sow injustice will harvest evil; the rod of their fury will come to an end. Happy are generous people, because they give some of their food to the poor. Remove the mocker and conflict disappears; judgment and shame also stop. (Proverbs 21:1-10)
The overall quality of character is what determines if a man or woman will be known in a favorable light. We call this "reputation" - something which "precedes" us into every venture in life. Get a "bad rep" and we might just have to "start over" in a new "life" in order to escape the "unfavorable" reputation we have acquired. People try to do this by moving to a new location, starting a new job, or entering into a new relationship. Until we deal with whatever got us the "bad rep" in the first place, we will just redo the same things wherever we start anew. I know this because I speak from personal experience. I was a little bit of a troublemaker as a teenager, and there were times when my reputation preceded me wherever I went. Despite the attempts to convince others I had "started over", the bad events of my past just followed me. What I failed to recognize it that others looked for evidence in the actions I exhibited, not in the words I spoke. The "convincing" only came once God fully got hold of my life and my "reputation" began to change because my CHARACTER began to change!
Character is the basis of everything others might come to believe about us. We can determine to "show" one thing, but if the character is not there behind what it is we are "showing", it won't hold up to the test of time or the scrutiny of the observant eye. God asks for us to "guard" the "clean" reputation that comes from simply serving him. We need to "protect" it - not because we need to "shine it up" to make it appear good, but because there are lots of opportunities for it to get "dings" and "gouges" along the way. All we respond to in life provides opportunity for getting a few dings or gouges in our reputation - it is the responses we give in the moment of testing which often need our greatest attention. A prudent person "foresees" the dangers ahead and as a result, he takes the necessary actions to avoid those dangers. This is where I went wrong in my teenage years - I thought I could just trudge ahead, unconcerned about the consequences of my questionable and even bad decisions. I forgot to consider my actions producing certain consequences - some of which damaged my reputation. This is where a good many of us fail in life - not considering the dangers ahead by giving full-steam to the actions we take in the moment. When God reminds us to "guard" our reputation, I think he is telling us to think about the actions before we take them - considering well the consequences which could come as a result of certain actions. Just sayin!