Earlier this week, something was missing in my home after someone visited our “yard sale”. I was very frustrated because I thought the person had stolen from me. A day later, it actually turned out that I was mistaken; the item was found in an out-of-the-ordinary corner. I felt bad about my incorrect judgment of the person, and was grateful I hadn’t acted immediately on my suspicion. As I discussed the incident with a friend, I also learned something… I recognized how the person’s prior behaviors had caused me to think they that might actually be capable of stealing. In past visits, this same person had changed price tags, tore off tickets in hope of getting a lower price, and argued constantly pressuring for a better deal. Nothing all that “bad”, but the accumulation of those prior small, negative behaviors had left me with a tainted view of that person’s character.
I began to think about how the seemingly insignificant, minor daily choices regarding words and actions actually build a reputation… and how other people pre-determine their expectations of future behavior based on that reputation.
I began to consider… how are my actions and words building my reputation with others? Based on my past behavior, how do others think I will react in a future situation? If something was missing, would they think that maybe I took it?
Now maybe stealing is not actually an issue for me, but if gossip were going around, would others think I started it? If someone was hurt, would others suspect that I caused it? If someone felt unappreciated, would others consider that it was probably my fault? Do others avoid talking with me, because they expect me to react words that are critical or demanding?
Or, reflecting on how I have spoken and responded in the past, can others count on me to help? Can they expect me to tell the truth? Do they think I will treat others with love and grace? That I will handle a situation with integrity? That I will have patience?
Challenging questions to ask… How are my daily words and actions building my reputation? Based on my reputation, how do others expect me to behave?