I was thinking this morning about reputations, and the importance of having a good one. This came to mind for two reasons. First: I’m using a new babysitter this morning for the first time. And second: it’s my son’s first day of (a type of) school. And in both cases, the concept of reputation comes into play in a big way.
This year my son is participating in a Christian homeschool academy called Artios that meets every Monday morning from 8:45 to 12. This morning was his first day of school, and he was excited and nervous, as every kid is on that auspicious occasion. As we were driving up in the car, we talked through the school’s rules again and reviewed the kind of student he needs to be. Attentive, polite, respectful, obedient, etc. “Is it ok to be mean to other kids or to tease people?” I asked him. “What if the teacher tells you to do something you don’t want to do?” And the like. Surprisingly, he was very interested in this and wanted to ensure that there were no other rules he needed to know that we hadn’t covered. We talked about the importance of timeliness, and I assured him that I’d see to it that we arrive on time – despite traffic – because yes, being on time matters. When I pick him up afterwards and we debrief the morning, I will ask him about these things as part of the conversation.
A reputation, I was thinking as he and I talked, is built on such things as these. You behave righteously because God calls us to do so, not because you want to impress other people, but the impression you give to other people also matters. Because how you behave reveals the kind of person you are: polite or rude, obedient or defiant, attentive or spacey, timely or late, rowdy or calm, dependable or flaky. Is my kid viewed as a positive influence on people or a negative? The fact is that course of a person’s life is, to a real degree, shaped by the character traits he displays to the world. When a person hears my son’s name, what impression of him will come to mind?
On the flip side, I engaged a new babysitter to take care of my other three kids this morning so that I could take my son to school, which is 35 minutes away. Having returned from a three-week vacation only 36 hours ago, I didn’t want to have to drag the little ones up in the car, have the baby miss her nap, and throw everyone out of whack just when I’m trying to help them re-acclimate to home life and schedules. When the sitter stopped in to meet us yesterday afternoon and get the lay of the land at our house, I thought about why I was willing to allow her into my home and my kids’ lives. It’s because she has a good reputation, that she was recommended to me by people I know and trust. She’s highly commended, and I believe my children will be in good hands with her. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t hire her.
My interaction with this woman just reinforced to me my own thoughts about reputation. Helping my kids develop a good one will benefit them in life, and that’s a huge deal. Thus, helping them grow in character and thus develop a good name is a big part of what we need to do as parents.
Proverbs 22:1 makes this point clearly: “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” Our culture tends to spend a lot of time and energy on the “silver and gold” side of things; let’s take the cue from this proverb and be people who are more concerned with building a good name for ourselves and our kids – names that will bring praise to our God – than on wealth.