Reputation: the Idol.

I tend to take a mulligan one day every week.

There just always seems to be one day that I screw something up at work, or say something to a friend or family member, or do something that inconveniences someone else, so I try to shake it off and take a mulligan.

back to that in a minute.

A few weeks ago at church, the idea of idolatry was discussed. We established a pretty good characteristic of what an idol was:

What, if taken away, would absolutely devastate me?

This made me think. I’m always a little bit cautious because I don’t want to rush to any conclusions about what my idols are and start trying to treat things that aren’t the big problem. So I tried to think…

is it sports? No, I have other interests I could do if I couldn’t play or watch sports.

is it money? No, I have plenty of stuff and my bills are paid, I’m never dying for more money (and a quick insert: money is amoral. The way I worded that might make it seem like I’d be in trouble if I lost my money, and that’s true, but it’s because I have bills to pay. Money can be a tool for the kingdom and it’s a tool to help us survive.)

is it work? no, I enjoy being off of work!

So what is it? I’m human, I tend to have idols. And I definitely don’t sense that life is perfect. So what’s on the throne of my heart that I have a hard time getting off?

That’s when I started to notice some patterns in my life.

To put it plainly, I have been worshiping an idol of reputation. I’ll explain…

I’m a perfectionist. I want to do everything the right way and as well as I possibly can. I give myself little to no margin for error, because I don’t ever want to be the guy who screwed something up for someone else. Case in point: at work the other day, I put a note on one of the things we do as prep in the mornings, instructing people to leave the leave the skinny mocha that went out Tuesday alone, throw it out at the end of the night, and then on Wednesday I would make one that would last us through Thursday. Then I was informed that skinny mocha is good for 24 hours, so if I made one Wednesday at 5:45 AM, I would still need a new one Thursday at 5:45 AM. I had one of those Homer Simpson “D’OH!” moments and went on my way with that bothering me. I couldn’t get over the idea that I had nearly screwed something up completely. I never want to be remembered as the guy who made a mistake and didn’t know his stuff.


I also start to get afraid when dealing with other peoples’ kids. Now, I love kids. I think they’re fantastic and fun (well, the ones whose parents I know and I know they do a good job with them, and the kids who love me too 😛 ) but I am always a little bit hesitant. I know that I would never do anything to hurt a child and I would never act inappropriately towards one, but I’m afraid that people think I will. Is that weird?! Maybe this is a classic case of Jeff Poling overthinking things, but I am always thinking that when I hug someone’s son or daughter, they will start to think, “that Jeff Poling, he’s dangerous…I can’t let him around my kids.” The relevance of the case in point is bigger than kids–it’s that I can’t stand to be ill-thought of.

The final thing I’ll say is that I’m always trying to correct myself before someone else does, or to highlight a potential mistake before someone else. When I lay an idea out to someone, I’ll give them the rundown on everywhere I might have screwed up in my thinking. Isn’t it funny that in trying not to be annoying, I’ve probably already done something to annoy them further?


The problem is, I’m so hooked on how other people think of me as a person that it can debilitate me by causing me to be overly introspective. There’s a verse in 1 Peter that can be loosely related (and I’m going to try to tie it together so it makes sense) it’s in chapter 3, vs. 15. It says:

“…sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…”

What this makes me think of is that Peter operates under the assumption that these people are already hoping. He charges them not to figure out why, but to already know why, and to live already hoping!

Likewise, for me, the Gospel empowers me to live. Because of the gospel, and because I know who I am in Jesus, and who He’s made me to be, I can live knowing that if I screw up at work, it’s not the end of the world, and we will do what it takes to fix it. I know that God has given me a new heart, and it’s intentions are God-intentions, and I can love children knowing that I would never hurt them. I can live knowing that I’m guided by the Holy Spirit, so any plan I make, while it comes through a flawed human vessel, has merit because it comes through a flawed human vessel guided by the Holy Spirit.

When it comes down, I have no reason to worry about my reputation, because Jesus Christ in me is my reputation.

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