Character vs. Reputation

A person’s character and a person’s reputation are two vastly different things. Your character is defined as: “the mental and moral qualities of a person.” Your reputation: “the beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone.”

“She’s always late. What a flake! Why can’t she get her act together.”

Sound familiar? Have you heard this is your reputation? Have you said this about someone else?

The views of others make up our reputation. Our character makes up our authentic selves.

In a perfect world, my character is to be on time. I get up earlier than needed, especially when I have something planned. I make sure I have all my ducks in a row the night before or with plenty of time to spare. If I can be early, I’d rather be. I enjoy being early so that I can make connections with people before the “work” has to start.

Oh, in the ideal world….

My reputation…well, it might not look like I’m an “on time” person. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if my reputation was that of an always late person. Despite my best efforts, I am usually right on time or a few minutes late to everything. I have kids. I have a husband. There are things that come up. I wake up to a foot of snow and have to unbury a vehicle before I can leave the house. These may all sound like excuses, and some probably are, but they are also my reality.

I could get my kids up 15 minutes earlier each morning. But what are the chances that someone has a breakdown because there’s something in their sock? Pretty high. Or that the school lunch isn’t what they want but there’s nothing in the house to eat either. Totally happens at least once a week.

The lives of a busy mom are sprinkled with moments like these, when our children or spouse or pets derail our intentions. Our characters are not ones of chaos, but our reputations could be seen that way.

As you head out this morning, think about the negative reputations you see or hear. Look a little deeper into them. That co-worker who is always late to work, might be so overwhelmed that just getting out of bed is a process each day. The friend who can never seem to get out to the things you invite them to, might be afraid to leave their house. The person who never contributes to a fundraiser might be living so far in debt that they have no penny to spare.

And as you look at those reputations a little deeper, look at yourself. If your true character isn’t matching the reputation you hear, look inside. Find what you are hiding from others. Always late? Share your reason. Can’t find the time? Tell people why. A world of authenticity is a world of understanding. When we understand the character of others, and ourselves, we can live with more freedom from judgment and fear of our reputation.

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