Like most folks, I try protect my reputation. The best way to do this is to pay close attention to what the Bible says. Often we hear such verses of Scripture intoned in the format of “Thou shalt,” and “Thou shalt not.”
Just before I was released from my active duty stint in August of 2004, my wife, Isaura, traveled with me back to a conference at our Navy base in Millington, Tennessee. It’s about a thirty minute drive north of Memphis. In the conference I ran into my friend and fellow chaplain, Rob Scott. He and I served together in Djibouti, Africa during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. We had some great times together, and really saw God do some amazing things through our ministries. Isaura had often heard me talk about Rob, but had not had the opportunity to meet him. I suggested to the chaplains in the conference that we have dinner together one evening during the conference. We all agreed it was a good idea. It turned out that some twenty chaplains accepted the invitation!
On the evening selected we managed to get enough tables together at a local restaurant so we could all sit together. There was animated conversation all evening while we enjoyed our fried catfish and hushpuppies. Then, out of nowhere, Rob decides to tell my wife a story about me while we’d been in Djibouti. He had a certain twinkle in his eye, and I knew I was about to be ambushed!
Rob began innocently enough, telling Isaura how he and my RP (Religious Program Specialist – Navy enlisted rate that works directly with chaplains), RP1 Brett Baldree, were concerned about my health. You see, after being in Djibouti about five or so weeks, I came down with a nasty case of the Djibouti Crud. It is the African version of Montezuma’s Revenge. At any rate, I was stretched out on my bunk which was only about fifty feet from our portable bathrooms. I had been lying in this condition for several days, miserable beyond imagination, drinking Gatorade and munching on an occasional cracker. Baldree walked down from the chapel several times during the day to check on me.
So, Chaplain Scott runs into RP1 Baldree, who commences to tell him he’s concerned about me, and could he pay me a visit. Rob, being the fine chaplain that he is, says he’d be glad to.
At this point in the story, I have no idea where Rob is going with this. Isaura is smiling benignly, also wondering where Rob is taking this story. You must also appreciate that this is the first time I’ve heard this story. Here’s the rest of it.
Rob was sure he knew where my hootch was. Actually, it wasn’t a hootch. It was a tent; but we called it a hootch. So Rob strolls into the hootch, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkened interior. It’s only then that he notices that the hootch is empty at the end he entered with a sheet of canvas separating from the other end. At that moment the flap into the other side is pulled back, and a female is standing there with nothing but a towel wrapped around her. Startled by each others appearance, the female says to Rob, “What are you doing in here?” He replies, “I’m looking for Chaplain Roots!” She sternly replies, “This is the women’s tent!” Feeling flustered at this moment, Rob blurts out, “But, is Chaplain Roots here?”
We all roared with laugher, Isaura enjoying the story greatly, as did others who keyed into the tale as it unfolded. I sat there slack-jawed, stunned, but really getting a kick out of hearing this for the first time. Rob is a good friend and a great brother in the Lord.
But it did get me to thinking. A good reputation takes time to earn, while it takes only a moment to lose. This was a story that, if misunderstood, or used in a harmful way, could destroy a person’s character and integrity. Or what if a person only overheard part of the story, and then passed on partial information such as, “I heard Chaplain Roots was dropping by the women’s tent while in Djibouti!”
So let me ask you – how are you maintaining your reputation? Do you help others to keep their reputations intact? Or do you criticize and look for opportunities to attack a person’s character?
Paul writes in Philippians, “Do not act out of a spirit of rivalry, nor out of empty conceit. Act rather with humility and consider others better than yourselves. Each of you must look to the interests of others as well as to the interests of yourselves.”
Take good care of your reputation. It may be the only gift of value you have to pass down to the next generation.