When I was middle school aged, I had a reputation for being the good girl. There were kids from my own class trying to bully me into cursing, partying, or being promiscuous. When I did not oblige to their prompts I was labeled, “Miss Goody Two Shoes”. Indeed, I was proud of having been taught good morals, the importance in valuing myself, and striving to be set apart from the crowd.
However, given more time, this label eventually wore me down. I began to care all too much about what others thought of me. I wanted to fit in the crowd, and my lifestyle took some drastic changes. Upon entering college, those very same behaviors that I stood against became my new persona. I hid my good morals, no longer valued myself, and became a part of the crowd.
In retrospect, I can see how I explored having both the good girl and bad girl reputation. From experience, I realize the hurt that comes from either label- because I allowed it. Even though they were completely different experiences, I felt a sense of embarrassment, shame, and pride from both sides.
Since I know what this hurt feels like, how could I possibly give a label regarding someone else’s reputation? Oh, yes, I have been guilty of this. If someone’s lifestyle hasn’t resembled mine, or doesn’t align with the way I view things then I have been quick to judge. Once I begin to utter words about any individual to another person, I have created a portrayal of their reputation.
I see, now, how there are two sides to someone’s reputation. The one side that we work so hard to portray for ourselves by our lifestyle. And, the other side portrayed by someone else’s words about our lifestyle.
Jesus, knew this all too well. When he walked this earth, he spoke and lived out the gospel. Based upon his ministry, he had a good reputation:
..Jesus.. asked his disciples,“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”- Matthew 16:13&16
And by this same ministry, he had a bad reputation:
..he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law.– Matthew 16:21
But, he never allowed those labels to define who he was. They didn’t make or break his identity. He lived to fulfill prophecy, to please his Father, to share the gospel with the world, to be love toward all mankind- just to name a few. Therefore, it is to my benefit to never allow labels to make or break me; whether good or bad. I am to strive to live like Jesus. And, that work will truly portray who I really am- a beloved, grace-given child of the One, true God.
But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.- 1 John 2:5&6
Yes, I want to have a good reputation. But, the labels others place on me are no longer of importance. I know who I am in Christ. And I strive to live by his morals, seek insight of how he values me, and answer to his calling that sets me apart.
Almighty Father, I ask forgiveness for those times when I have placed a label upon someone else. Help me to ‘stop passing judgment on another that I may not put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way’ of another (Romans 14:13). I also ask that You help me to forgive others who have hurt me with their labels. I pray Your blessings pour over those ‘who have cursed me’, and I pray for ‘those who have mistreated me’ that they truly be brought to Your salvation (Luke 6:28). I realize now, that I do not need the words of others, good or bad, to fulfill a sense of satisfaction in me. It is Your unfailing love that truly satisfies (Psalms 90:14). Lord, help me to ‘remain faithful to Your teachings’. For it is ‘by Your truth that I am set free’ (John 8:31&32). I praise You, Father, for Your promise and faithfulness ‘to teach, correct, and train me in righteousness’ (2 Timothy 3:16). In Jesus’ holy name I pray, Amen.
“Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation.”- Proverbs 3:3-4 (NLT)