It’s human nature to desire to be liked by others. We want to be accepted. We want people to think well of us.
So what happens when rumors or lies are spoken about us?
We get angry.
We’re like—Holy Buckets, what the heck??
We get a panic thing goin’ on and we want to make the truth known.
I had lunch with a friend some years ago. She was concerned because someone was telling lies about her fiancée to his family and friends.
They worried that if they didn’t keep correcting the lie and speak what was true, then eventually the lie becomes the truth in the minds of others.
I agreed with her at the time—about a lie becoming the truth.
But I don’t anymore. Believing a lie can never make it true.
Later, after experiencing having lies told about me I initially felt the same as my friend. I worried that people would believe the lies. I thought that the lie would eventually become the truth that is passed on.
Then a wise friend told me that what people believe doesn’t matter. Even if it’s a malicious lie.
“What do you mean even if they believe lies?” I asked. It’s one thing for people not to like you in general—but to believe lies about you…that was hard to grasp. That’s important enough that we have laws against slander.
“God knows the truth and that’s all that matters,” he said. I didn’t like that answer at first. Sure, I liked that God knows the truth, but I still wanted people to know the truth.
I found myself asking, why?
Why do I want people to know the truth? Everything on this earth will eventually fall away. It is all fleeting.
The only eternal thing is God. So why was I placing such importance on what was said about me by mere people?
It goes back to that human nature of wanting to be liked by others. I liked having a good reputation. We want people to think the best of us.
But God wanted to me know the difference between character and reputation. I technically knew the difference—I could recite the difference, but I didn’t let it sink into my heart. You know–that head knowledge vs. heart knowledge thing.
I had knit the two together.
Reputation is who people think you are. Character is who you really are.
Reputation can change on dime. A reputation that takes years to build with good character can be destroyed in minutes. It is often out of our control.
The reverse can also be true. Someone can work to build a good reputation, but be of poor character. They are putting up a good façade without the foundation of good character.
Reputation can never be used to fully measure a person.
Character is in our control. No one can rob us of our character. Character has eternal value. Reputation can be stolen by liars and gossipers.
My wise friend was right. I have found total peace in letting go of what my reputation may be. God knows my character. That will never fall away.
Two things I’ve learned:
1. I never believe people’s opinions about others anymore. I may take what they say into consideration. But there is never one side to a story. They may be sincere in their belief, but it doesn’t mean that belief is the truth.
2. I’ve come to see reputation as an earthly treasure. Something valued by people that can be stolen by thieves. Even if the truth is never know by people, it is known by God.
Most lessons in life are learned during times of hardship. We don’t like the tough stuff—but if we don’t let it make us bitter, it will build our character and make us better.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” ~Matthew 6:19
Yolanda DeLoach (@YolandaDeLoach) is a member of Wesley UMC and through her writing, tries to remind herself to keep life light. You can visit her at her own site, yolandadeloach.com