Reputation vs. Reality 

This bird freaked me out, I could pretend that I felt super manly holding it but really I was worried it would peck my eyes out

Last week I was at a Cru conference listening to lots of different speakers elaborating on various aspects of our organization. There are hundreds of things I learned from all the different speakers, but one pearl really hit me between the eyes. Steve Sellers mentioned one of the most profound things I’ve heard in a long time. During Q&A after his message, Steve said: “The difference between your reality and your reputation is integrity”. I’m not sure if he just made that up or if this is a common quote but either way it’s powerful! 

By reality he meant the real us, who we are underneath the public image we’ve formed and fashioned to our exact liking. I would say who you are when no body’s looking but it’s even deeper than that. There are thoughts we’ve had and things we imagine or fantasize about that no one could ever know unless we tell them. 

This year I started studying logic and recently I’ve been learning about logical diagrams. So upon hearing Steve’s brilliant statement, I sketched out a quick diagram and added some unconventional arrows.   


As you can see reality encompasses your reputation (even if there are parts of your reputation that aren’t true, if you’re passing them off as true then those lies are part of reality). As your integrity grows your reputation grows more and more inline with reality. You begin to be be more fully known, people get a better sense of who you really are. If you’re anything like me, you might be stressing at this point. This is a scary idea, I don’t want people to know the real me. There could be thousands of reasons but the top three reasons I don’t want to be fully known are: 

1. I don’t want to be rejected
2. I don’t want to be mocked
3. I don’t want to be judged. 

In his song “Superhuman”, rapper Andy Mineo captures the essence of our reputation management: 

“We dress up in nice heels, we try to make people buy’em,
That’s why when someone asks how we doin’, we tell’em fine,
Knowing we hurt inside, but tell me who’s really lyin’, they ain’t really wanna know how you doin’, that cost time, 
that’s way too expensive,
 And if I ever get a date with a dime I’m sending my representative, the version of Andy that’s cropped and edited, I’m killin’ this first impression, and I’m hidin’ the evidence,
Yea, Photoshoppin’ the blemishes,
These lies of perfection are the cry of the desperate, 
Men that want that acceptance
Holdin’ they breath, dying a thousand deaths,
Forgetting there’s beauty inside the mess,
What else could you expect? We obsessed over Twitter numbers!
Checkin ours, then comparing them to others, like,
The number of likes upon a status is somehow suppose to raise our status, 
Boy, this is madness.” 

I’m guessing you can relate to my top three reasons and at least portions or Andy’s lyrics. So what’s the cure? We all have a desire to be really known but we all have a deep fear of being known at the same time. If you have any background in Sunday school you’ve already guessed it by now: Jesus. “Park that’s your answer for everything!” Amen and Amen! Jesus is the answer for everything. “But how does he specifically answer those three road blocks that keep us from being real with ourselves and our friends?” Now that is a great question! 

This obsession with our reputation stems from fear. The three fears I mentioned above can lead to life or they can lead to death. If you are afraid of God rejecting you, God mocking you for foolishly putting your hope in yourself, and God’s judgement, then this can lead you to trusting in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, adoption as a son or daughter, and friendship with the Living God. If you are afraid of men and women rejecting you, mocking you and judging you then those fears lead to death. 

Think about it, there will always be some human who rejects you. There will always be some mocker, especially now that we can hide behind computer screens, who will post terrible comments on your frog video on YouTube. And there will always be someone with the “holier than thou” mentality who will condemn you. There is no freedom when you fear man rather than God. This is nothing but chasing after the wind. 

When your identity is rooted in what people think of you, you are a slave to their ever-changing opinions. When your identity is rooted in Jesus Christ, your worth is secure, you’ve been bought with price, you are a son or daughter of the King. Romans 8:1 is one of the most beautiful verses in the entire Bible: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” 

There it is. The cure for the fear of man is the fear of God, and fearing God leads to godly repentance and believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior. Do you fear being rejected? Trusting in Christ means you will never be cast out, you’ll never be rejected by God. Are you afraid of being mocked? Life in Christ means never being mocked by the One who’s opinion really matters. Are you afraid of being judged? There is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! 

Understanding these truths allows us to be honest with ourselves and others. Instead of hiding and trying to be conformed to what the world wants, we can be real and begin to be transformed by the renewal of our minds. We no longer have to be slaves to thinking of ourselves more highly then we ought, but now we can think of ourselves with sober judgement according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. We can be free from the slavery of managing our reputations and embrace reality through the integrity God is building in us.

In light of this blog post I have to admit, I continue to struggle with this. I’m still afraid of what you think of me. I am a new creation but I still try to put on “Old Park’s” clothes from time to time. I’m grateful to God for guiding me everyday to put off the old me and embrace my new identity In Christ. If you are a Christian then God has not given you a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons and daughters, we are fellow heirs with Christ in the Kingdom of God. If you’re not a Christian then I pray God uses the ramblings of this beggar to point you to the bread of life, Jesus Christ.

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