“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” –Abraham Lincoln
A man called at the church and asked if he could speak to the Head Hog at the Trough. The secretary asked, “Who?” The man repeated, “I want to speak to the Head Hog at the Trough!”
Certain she had heard correctly, the receptionist said, “Sir, if you mean our pastor, you will have to treat him with respect. Refer to him as ‘Reverend’ or ‘Pastor.’ Don’t refer to him as the Head Hog at the Trough!”
The man said, “I apologize. I have $10,000 dollars I was thinking of giving to the church.” The receptionist said, “Hold the line-I think the Big Pig just walked in the door.”
Obviously this is just a story. But it serves as thought-provocation: What invites respect? Is it a title? An office? Seminary degrees? Social status? Is it talent? Abilities? Intellect?
No. It’s none of these things. It’s character.
Respect is earned. And then it’s sustained by influence, not position. Sure, presidents, preachers, parents and practitioners are initially given respect for their position, but if they underperform or lack integrity, respect is quickly lost—and most difficult to recover.
Those who possess great skills are initially granted respect, but very soon it’s their character that will either sustain it or prove them unworthy—just ask the two teams drafting number 1 and 2 in the 1998 NFL Draft, choosing between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf: Manning went on to become one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, and Leaf went to jail.
Look at what Paul says about the qualification of leaders—those worthy of respect: “Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:2–3).
As I look at this list, I notice they’re all about character—not title or talent. Even “able to teach” in this context speaks of character—the ability to teach, here, is to have a “moral platform” from which to instill lessons in others.
Respectable leaders rise to the occasion and do the right things because it’s who they are. They embody the values espoused. They express their leadership in humility. People choose to follow them because they’re worthy of respect.
Respectability invites respect. We may think, “I’m not getting any respect.” If so, on what do we base our expectations?
“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1).
My prayer this week – Father, thank you for where you’ve placed me, and for the opportunities you give me to lead and influence others. Will you show me areas of my character that need growth and transformation so as to be worthy of others’ respect?