When is the last time you worked on your image or considered it as a priority? The fact is we don’t really consciously work on our image most of the time. But our reputation is something that we are constantly developing for the good or bad, whether we know it or not. Our behavior constantly drives our image as others take note.
Are you seen as a glass half full, or half empty person? For example, are we known as positive or negative, grumpy or nice, thoughtful or inconsiderate, selfish or giving, hardworking or lazy, obnoxious or agreeable, judgmental or forgiving, set in our ways or willing to change/learn? What are our habits that others take note of? Are we knee jerk reactors, or well thought out? Are we hot headed or level headed? Talkers or listeners? Are we controlling or secure enough to allow others some space? Center of attention, or securely in a supporting role? Do we take advantage of others regularly by our neglect of these important elements? Or just as bad, are we worse off because we aren’t growing in character by paying attention to the opportunities for growth that are all around us through interaction with others? We want to be on the right side of the ledger on each of these behaviors.
All of these characteristics influence our interactions with others, and our behavior. The give and take in our dialogue will determine the quality of communication, influence, and relationship we enjoy with those we interact with each and every day. Yet we slide through life without giving much of this any thought or investment. I’m suggesting that your sensitivity to your own behavioral activity could be a difference-maker in your relationships, as well as your reputation. By doing something as simple as paying attention to your actions, you could be on your way to a better marriage, or other enhanced relationships.
When a newspaper posed the question, “What’s Wrong with the World?” the Catholic thinker G. K. Chesterton reputedly wrote a brief letter in response: “Dear Sirs: I am. Sincerely Yours, G. K. Chesterton.” That is the attitude of someone who has grasped the message of Jesus. – Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God
The thing that may be holding you back at work may in fact be you! It’s easy to blame others when we blunder. There are plenty of others to misdirect blame towards. Yet why is it that some excel in personal relationships and others can’t get past someone, or something that they believe caused their setback? The truth is, we could all work a little more on our own self. We tend to want to fix things in everyone else because that is a whole lot easier than looking inward.
Yet we all are responsible for the reputation we’ve created. I’ve told this to my kids over the years. The only one you have to blame for what others think of you, is you. We work hard on our image whether we know it or not. One of the questions that comes to mind in a dialogue like this is whether or not we can make changes.
Is it fair to encourage folks to change? Haven’t each of us already become who we are? We should accept each other as they are, right? The professional counselors’ offices are full of people working on behavioral issues. I’m guessing these professionals feel it is worth it to work on the deepest things that need work. Poor behavior has ruined many a marriage relationship. Dysfunction driven by selfishness, insecurities, poor decision making, etc., has curtailed not just work advancement, but also other relationships that could have been incredible. So if a change in behavior is possible, by all means we should be exploring what brings on change.
There is change, and then there is transformation. Romans 12 tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:1-2). When we yield ourselves to Christ’s control, Ephesians says we leave the deadness of a life without Jesus “when you followed the ways of this world,” and we exchange it for a life that is “made alive in Christ.” That is transformation! Paul says “All of us lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts” (Eph. 2:1-5). The opportunity for change and transformation is evident across Paul’s writings. We are admonished to work on ourselves, but the difference between going in for counseling and allowing God to work through the Holy Spirit is that according to the Word, God will do the work and affect the change. He will change things that we could never change on our own, no matter how hard we try. Are we humble enough to ask for him to transform us?
When I first came to Christ I was directed to I Peter, chapter four. It talks about our former friends not understanding why we’re not participating with them any longer in things that are of the world. It says that “they will think it strange that you don’t participate with them any longer” (1 Pet. 4:12-17). He’s talking about God–change. Transformation. Paul talks about living as “children of light.” He says, “you must no longer live in the futility of their thinking – darkened in their understanding because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over…”
He goes on to say, “ You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God.” Paul is talking about real transformative change. Life-changing, revolutionary change.
CHANGE IS POSSIBLE! We need to recognize the need to put off our old self, and put on the new self – to be made new.
I know someone that has developed into a negative influence. He says things that are hurtful, and as a part of his dialogue in a desire to be involved with conversation just says some really harmful things. I’ve had others make comments about his behavior, and there’s not much I can say. He’s working hard on his reputation – in a negative way. His refusal to put off the old self, and put on the new self, has affected his persona. It has been sad to watch. On our list from the first few paragraphs he suffers from being negative, versus positive. He has become obnoxious versus agreeable, and judgmental versus accepting. So he resides in the reputation he creates just like all of us do.
I know another who has to be the center of attention and is very controlling, driven by his insecurity. He fits almost every one of the criteria describing a narcissist. We all know those whose behavior is contemptible or at best barely tolerable. There are those that negatively or overly influence your life. You may need to consider a new circle of friends. You don’t have time for a constant, negative barrage of the wrong kind of influence. Surround yourself with those that make positive emotional deposits. Influence cuts both ways, and these are things you can control. So set a high standard for yourself and those you run with. Apart from yielding to Jesus, however, none of us are very pleasant to be around.
What about those who let Jesus occupy the throne of their lives? These people are made alive with Christ. One thing is clear and that is without humility, you don’t ask Jesus for help. We really can be “made alive in Christ!” We can be “raised up with Christ.” We must see the need though, and ask.
Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. Paul says, “He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it.” Your story is being written every day. Will it be one of yielding – and asking God to complete his work in you? Will you ask him to purge you of your tendencies to rush to anger, to be selfish, to be judgmental, and all those things I listed earlier?
It’s funny to me that it is common knowledge that the alcoholic or drug addict is encouraged to get help. Yet it is known that unless that person comes to the place of acknowledging the need for help on their own, it doesn’t do much good to force them into treatment. They’ve got to want it. We all agree on that, and it is truth. Yet the same thing applies to the everyday addiction that consumes many of us. Being judgmental, insensitive, selfish, arrogant, controlling, etc. are all characteristics where the same logic applies. Unless you are willing to do the work, you won’t get help either.
We are no different than the drug addict. If we are living with the old self, and have not come to the point of recognizing our broken nature, we’ll just keep bumping along. Same reputation. Same image. Still causing pain without realizing it. Never putting on the mind of Christ, still conforming to the patterns of this world, never getting help. Steeped in a different kind of addiction. The addiction of self.
This was Peter’s story in the beginning. This month at After Hours we’ll take a look at some of these verses, as well as the ups and downs of Peter’s life. He’s the best. And the worst. Yet Jesus chose him as one of the inner circle and worked through him supernaturally in the early days of the church. Peter was proud, yet became humble. His image went from worst to best. Unusable to usable. Peter became a different person. Peter was humble but led with authority. You can lead in this way as well. He had been transformed. Scripture says about Peter: “they were astonished and took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Now that’s an image of one who yielded and allowed God to work. “They took note.” Others are taking notes as our story is written. Let’s leave them some good material!
Let’s be humble enough to avail ourselves to the transformative power that comes by engaging with Jesus Christ and see what happens.