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Character vs. Reputation

9 Apr 2021 | Lt. Victor Stephens Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune

We have long heard it said that actions speak louder than words. The philosopher John Locke said it like this, "The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts." All who sojourn on this globe have two ways in which we are understood. The way we are known to others, and the way we know ourselves. In essence, this is our reputation, which is how we are known to others in contrast to our character, which is the way we know ourselves to be. In other words, a person's character is the sum of his or her disposition, thoughts, intentions, desires and actions. However, with some degree of frequency, we find ourselves conflicted because our reputation does not always equal our character.


We all know that in a world of 'social shallow media' and 'façade-book', the veneer of outward reputation is resident. In the Bible, the account of Joseph, the husband of Mary, is given. One of the notable aspects regarding the character of Joseph is his righteousness. Joseph’s virtue was not a pompous, condescending type of uprightness. Rather, to be known as righteous in first-century Israel would have meant that you kept the religious law, financially supported the synagogue, strictly obeyed the dietary laws and celebrated the high holy feast days in Jerusalem. This said Joseph would have been well on his way to becoming a respected leader and elder in his family and his community. There can be no doubt Joseph had a high reputation. So, when he persists in taking an already pregnant woman into his home. He destroyed his reputation outward. By this action, Joseph teaches us that character is of greater value than an outwardly good reputation. If Joseph was more concerned about his reputation than that of his character, he certainly would not have taken the actions he did.

William H. Davis, once said "Reputation is the photograph; Character is the face. Reputation comes over one from without; Character grows up from within. Reputation is what you have when you come to a new community; Character is what you have when you go away. Your reputation is learned in an hour; your character is built in a lifetime. Reputation grows like a mushroom; Character grows like the oak. A single newspaper report gives you your reputation; a life of toil gives you your character. Reputation makes you rich or makes you poor; Character makes you happy or makes you miserable. Reputation is what men say about you on your tombstone; character is what the angels say about you before the throne of God."

Character is the substance of your being; reputation is merely the façade. As you endeavor to build a foundation of character, your reputation will reverberate the righteousness of your heart. As we go forward, may we treasure that which God calls valuable. God values character overlooks. God values the heart over the body. God values obedience over appearance.

The Chaplain’s Corner covers everything faith related.  Facts not attributed are purely the opinion of the writer.