Man, that hurts! I was thinking after a person blasted my reputation by sending out letters to every person in her current and former Bible studies. This lady’s Bible study leader and I had come to an impasse on a doctrinal/practical living disagreement. She was sorely disappointed that I did not take her side in judging some others who did not share her views.
Imagine my surprise when the controversy was played out in her five-page letter slandering my position and painting me as a heretic! It was not enough for her to express her displeasure with me, the senior pastor, by leaving the church. It was not enough to write a note to our elders asking for them to weigh my position. She had to leave in a scorched-earth approach.
Immediately, I took the copy smuggled to me from one of the former Bible study members and began to pen my defense. I would dismantle her arguments and set the record straight!
When I presented my defense to the elders, they did not react as I had expected. “You cannot send that out,” they declared. I was wounded. This woman had trashed my reputation and I could not defend myself?!
There was no point, they explained. The letter recipients had known me for over a decade. They would judge me by the character demonstrated over this time and the soundness of my teaching and preaching, not by one letter. To respond would spark a never-ending tit for tat that would degenerate like two siblings in the back seat of a car — “He touched me!” Did not!” “Did so!” ad infinitum.
My elders proved right and bore out the truth of John Wooden’s statement,  “Be more concerned about your character than about your reputation, because your character is about what you really are, while reputation is merely what others think you are.”
These are hard lessons to learn and at times hard to teach to our children. We strongly hope that they learn that character counts more than credentials. But then we need to put more emphasis on when they demonstrate good character than on the times when a grade is less than the best. We have to focus on the child’s conduct more than on his/her report card.
According to Hebrews 12, training characters is like doing physical therapy: No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” 
 
This verse reminds me of my slow recovery from a broken leg when I was 13 years old. After I screamed in pain and hobbled back to the exam room table, the doctor said, “Yep, that’s what I thought would happen. You will probably always walk with a limp.” 
 
Offended by this news, I retorted, “What are you talking about? I am only 13 years old!” He calmly responded, “I could tell you what to do to be healed, but you won’t listen to me, so you will probably always walk with a limp.” His reverse psychology worked and I was all ears.
 
I painstakingly followed his directions that included staying on crutches and keeping my toe pointed straight as I mimicked the movement of walking on my foot properly. It was slow going and, as the verse up above points out, painful. But step by step, using the crutches and then a cane (lovely look for a 13-year-old kid), my leg fully recovered, the atrophied limb swelled back to life, and I was as good as new. 
 
Rebuilding character and character training are like that. We need to slow our children down as we walk them through the process of thinking through decisions so that they are doing what pleases the Lord and brings Him glory. We have to be patient trainers that firmly guide them to do what is right, not what is easy nor what feels good. 
 
Character counts more than credentials.  In the long run, this is what saved the day for me. I had to live and learn the words of Proverbs 19:11, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
Of course, many things we are trying to teach our children are better caught than taught. How do we respond when our reputation is sullied? Do we model the character we want to see our children develop? I know that if I had not heeded the words of my elders, if I had proceeded to rant and rave at home and seek my revenge through slandering my accuser, I would have failed my kids and who knows if they would have learned to let slights go by?
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live. The life I now live in this body, I live by faith in the One who loved me and gave His life for me. Let’s live dead; dead to self, dead to insults, dead to pettiness, but alive to Christ! Christopher
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