Be more concerned with your character than your reputation.  Character is what you really are.  Your reputation is what others think you are.  John Wooden

Reputation is what others think you are.  Character is what God thinks you are.  Bobby Bowden

In my previous post, which I also read live on my Face Book page, I related two stories.  In one I executed a perfect moral failure.  In the other I did better.  Morality, integrity, and character all have to do with making choices that lead to favorable approval based on cultural mores, personal standards, and/or religious principles.  A single action can be appraised as demonstrating integrity; such as, returning the money when the cashier gives you too much change.  Keeping the change demonstrates low character.

Over time, a person will earn a reputation of being someone of high character, an angel as defined by Lincoln, or low character, a scoundrel.  Of course, there is a whole spectrum in the integrity scale in between these extremes.  My experience has taught me that its easier to diminish a good reputation with a few bad decisions than it is to enhance a bad reputation with a few good deeds.

By the way, for you men who think you are too manly to be called an angel, know that all the angels in the Bible were men, and the one that wrestled Jacob was pretty tough.  Also, angel is a metaphor for any person of high character, so says Lincoln, who was perhaps the greatest physical specimen of any President.  So get over it.

When thinking about character development, the key term is “ought.”  In every situation, in which there is a moral choice, one should ask the question, ‘Of all my options, which one ought I choose from a moral perspective.  Note that not all choices are moral choices.  A football coach evaluates the game situation and decides whether to call a running play or a passing play.  If he calls a screen pass to the halfback and the play gets the necessary yardage, he called the play he ought to have called.

The basis for a moral choice is found in cultural norms or religious “commandments.”  Know that even scoundrels will make what would be considered the “good character” choice.  The problem is they usually make it out of calculation rather than a good heart.  They are trying to avoid negative consequences or think it will pay off for them somehow.

Every year millions of Americans decide on whether or not to cheat on their income taxes.  Angels will never cheat.  Scoundrels will cheat if they think they can get away with it.  For a scoundrel to not cheat, is a choice based on self-interest, not honor and certainly not patriotism.

In the Bible, Jesus made note of the large sums of money the Pharisees were noisily dropping into the offering jar.  They were not generous because they had compassionate hearts.  They were acting generous because, as Jesus says in another passage, they liked being honored among men.  Their showing off paid off, at least in their minds.

Back in the 1990s, the Christian fad was to wear bracelets, or T-shirts, or hats that had written on them “WWJD,” what would Jesus do.  It was a reminder that when faced with a moral choice, we should ask ourselves, “What does Jesus Christ’s moral code have to say about my choice?  If we are serious about our discipleship, we ought not have to rely on an acronym to remind us of what is proper behavior.  But whatever works.

My favorite Bible verse is Philippians 4:8  “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”  In other words, work on your better angel.