My reputation; must I care what people think?
If you were asked the question, “Why is it important to keep the commandments and live the teachings of Christ?” what would your answer be?Perhaps many of us would say, “To gain eternal life.”That’s right, to gain eternal life. But for whom? For ourselves? Yes, that’s part of it. But Christ taught, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” (Mark 8:35.)
We should focus, not on serving ourselves, but on serving our fellowmen, thereby losing ourselves in the service of our Heavenly Father, His work and His glory. In order to be most effective in our service, we need to put our own lives in order. Then, as we live the gospel, our lives will reflect righteousness and virtue, and we will be a powerful influence for good in the lives of others. This is why it is not enough to be righteous for the sake of our own salvation. We must let our goodness radiate to others, that through our example and reputation they will lift their lives and have the desire to follow the Saviour’s pattern of living.
As we go about our daily activities, we’re often being judged by our fellowmen. Some of these judgements may be just, and some may be unjust. We can’t always control what others think of us, or how others judge us, but we can control the kinds of messages we send out through our behaviour. We should do all we can to establish for ourselves a worthy reputation, for such is of priceless worth. It is often the key to influencing others for good, and can be the means of bringing the gospel into their lives.
The importance of what a good reputation means was emphasised to me by friend when he entered into business many years ago with a great business leader. Their plans were to start a new wholesale business. This great business leader was to furnish the capital, and my friend was to furnish the management. After they reached an understanding his partner wrote him a cheque, and said, “If the business is a success, you will get all the credit; and if the business fails, you will likewise get all the credit.” He then went on to say, “Should the business fail, you will lose more than I will. I’ll only lose money, and I have more of that; but you will lose your reputation, which is more valuable than money.”
I have never forgotten this value this highly successful businessman placed on reputation. I’m happy to report that the business was successful.
I prefer not to think of reputation as a superficial pretence, attempting to indicate depth where there is only shallowness, honesty where there is deceit, or virtue where there is unrighteousness. Rather, I like to think of reputation as a window, clearly exhibiting the integrity of one’s soul. It is through this integrity of thought and integrity of conduct that we become pure and holy before the Lord. It is in this state that we can be most effective in serving our fellowmen.
Christ taught us to be other-centred. It is not enough for us to live the gospel inwardly; we need to be shining examples to all with whom we come in contact. In this sense, it’s not only what we are that’s important: what others think of us is also important. In order to be truly effective followers of Jesus Christ, we need to be known for our good qualities, to have an unspotted reputation in all things.
I would like, for example, to be known for my dependability on being honest and upright in all my dealings. I would like to be known as a man who meets his financial obligations on due date or prior thereto, a man whose word is as good as his bond. I would like to be known as one who is trustworthy and as one whose loyalty is unquestionable. I would like to be known as one who keeps the commandments and one who is fully committed in helping to build the kingdom of God.
Sometimes we hear a comment like, “What does it matter what I do? It’s my life, and I can do what I want with it.” It may be true that we are the ones most affected by our own actions. But in this life, no man is an island; every mortal’s life is intertwined with others’ lives. It is not possible for a person to represent only himself or herself. Every individual represents certain other people or groups of people as well. For example, we are all representatives of our own families, and the reputation of a family is established through the actions of individual family members.
Not only do we represent our families, but each of us belongs to a community, towns, regions, or nation whose collective reputation is based on the actions of individuals.
Many of us represent the business or organisation from which we earn our living. Students represent the schools which they attend. As members of different religion we all represent the Church or Mosque through our actions. What is our message?
We have a special sacred responsibility. When we are baptised as Christians, we take upon ourselves the name of Christ. Each day or week or month as we partake of the sacrament, we renew this covenant with our Heavenly Father, to take upon ourselves the name of His Son, to always remember Him and keep His commandments, that we might always have His Spirit to be with us.
Through baptism we become members of Christ’s family. We bear His name. We have the privilege to represent Him to others, to bear His message to His children throughout the world. We have the responsibility to be worthy of His name, to represent Him well in every way, to every person we meet to so live that our lives are Christian sermons in operation. For Christ has said:
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.
“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14–16.)
As we build our character, our light will shine brighter, and our outward reputation will become but a reflection of our inward self; then will our reputation be one, both before God and before our fellowmen.
I know through my experience in both service in my Church and business affairs that it is highly important to maintain a good and worthy reputation in all that we do, and in order to obtain real joy and happiness in this life and be effective servants of the Lord in helping to build His kingdom, we must build and retain a good reputation. This can only be accomplished by repenting of our sins and living the principles of the gospel, thereby keeping the commandments of God.
Samuel Enos Eghan