“Responsibility” is a big word, especially when it comes to reputations (both our own and others’). Several years ago I received a call from a prospective client. She said that she had been referred to me because I had a reputation as being “honest to a fault.” I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that, so at our first meeting I had to ask what that meant. She said that it meant that people know I will tell them the truth about how things are, and that I would admit to a mistake. She went on to say that she was told that when I think someone else is more qualified to provide the type of service a client or a prospect needs I send them to that other person—sacrificing revenue and profits in the best interest of others. Wow! What a fault to have!

That “fault” characterizes the standard I have set to do what is right in my business no matter the cost to me personally, financially or otherwise. It is a hard thing to do when the mortgage needs to be paid and other financial demands make it attractive to say “yes” to projects when I know that the best thing for the client is to say “no.” My bottom line is focused on doing what’s right, not on the bottom line of the financial statement.

Doing what is right is a matter of choice. It is not always easy. It is frequently the harder road to take: There can be and often are many more obstacles and pressures to take the road that everyone else seems to be traveling (note the word seems). Things are often not as they appear. Many companies and individuals seem to be doing well and then you begin to hear the comments about them. Their reputation begins to spread as customers and others begin to talk about the results, conduct and attitude of the people doing business with them.

The Bible cautions us about gossip and about careless comments that damage other people’s reputations. Reputation is life. Damaging someone’s reputation with false statements is wrong. Talking about someone unnecessarily and sharing what you know about them is gossip. Talking to someone who is considering hiring a company or individual and being asked what you know of the person is a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

At a recent dinner party I attended, the host and I were asked about a businessperson (we’ll call him Bill) we both know. The inquiry came from someone who was about to ask Bill to invest in his business. The question to us: “Do we know Bill and what do we know? Would he be a good investor?” I answered honestly that I do know Bill and from personal experience, I know that he will do whatever it takes for his own benefit. I could give numerous examples from personal experience of lies, theft and other misconduct that I don’t view as minor character issues, but major disconnects and violations of God’s commandments. I stated the facts of my experience. The host stated what he had “heard” from another close friend about her experience, and it was consistent with my own.

Your reputation matters! How you handle questions about other people and contribute to a positive or negative reputation is a big responsibility. You can find numerous instances throughout the Bible about bearing false witness against someone. Exodus, Deuteronomy, Proverbs, Luke, and Acts all contain verses about the commandment not to bear false witness and the consequences.

Keep in mind any time you are asked to discuss someone’s reputation or background that you are required to be truthful about what you personally know. But sharing what others may have said or experienced that you “heard about” (and you do not have first-hand knowledge) must be handled carefully. Bearing witness about unwitnessed, second-hand stories puts you in a dangerous position of potentially perpetuating a false statement about someone else. The best option if the actions were not against you is to refrain from comment and recommend the person call someone who has directly been involved with the person in question.

Remember: How we conduct ourselves reflects on God and others perception of our faith. We can quickly get our own bad reputation for tearing others down, being envious, and many other less than Christian characteristics. We want to glory God by our behaviors and to personify the best of Christianity to bring others to know God. Our reputations are one tool to use wisely in doing both.

Scripture to think on:

Exodus 20:16 (NKJV)
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Exodus 23:1 (NKJV)
You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.

Deuteronomy 19:16–17 (NKJV)
If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days.

Proverbs 6:19 (NKJV)
A false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.

Proverbs 12:17 (NKJV)
He who speaks truth declares righteousness, but a false witness, deceit.

Proverbs 14:5 (NKJV)
5    A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness will utter lies.

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