Thinking Rightly About Reputation Amidst Talk of ESG and Social Credit Scores

ESG, Social Credit Scores, and Putting the Proper Importance on Reputation The Garrett Ashley Mullet Show

How much should we care what people think of us, or what our reputation is?

Consider all the cancel culture of recent years, plus the #MeToo movement. Take note of all the talk of Woke ESG investing these days. And keep an eye on Chinese-style Social Credit Scores potentially going global, or coming to the U.S., not to mention Big Tech dialing down the democratization of information on behalf of repressive regimes. With all of these things in view, we clearly have some work to do on thinking rightly about reputation, and on what all should or should not go into the formation of a good name. 

How important our reputation is to us, for instance, may sometimes lead us into temptation. In certain situations, we may be offered rewards to compromise about what we know to be true and good, in the interest of being spoken well of by men. Of that we must beware.

On the other hand, there is a legitimacy to considering optics, if you don’t mind referring to them that way. For instance, we have a responsibility, in the interest of integrity, to effectively manage the relationship between what people see and hear from us, and what they subsequently get.

When we do this well, and wisely, there is a reward to be had in the form of favor with our fellow man. And this is how we establish the trust that is indispensable for strong and lasting relationships. It’s also how we, as followers of Christ, maintain what is known as a “good testimony.”

As Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” 

In some sense, this means we only care so much, but not too much, about what people think of us. Yet maybe it is clearer to say that we do not take bribes, nor compromise in the face of corrupt threats.

Yes, the person trying to grease our palms may think and speak ill of us for a time if we ignore them, or turn them down; but we will also have a better reputation, and more holistically, with the folks who really matter. And this is because there is a lower limit, not just an upper limit, to how much attention we pay to our reputation.

It’s just like how the Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8:20-21.

“We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.”

When the question of reputation is framed that way, in the sentiments Paul is conveying to the saints in Corinth, all the necessary safeguards are in place to keep us from veering either to the right or left. If the first priority is to do what is honorable in God’s eyes, that need not mean this is the only priority, or that we cannot pay attention to both.

Take note, that is not to say that we hold in contempt what others think. On the contrary, the phrase “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind” comes to mind as le mot juste to convey neither too much, nor too little, nor in the wrong place, or at an inopportune time, or for the wrong reasons, putting stock in our reputation. Rather, we care the right amount, and take the long view.

Doing what is right, and honorable, and saying only what is true, God is glorified. So also, those around us are honored and served well. Alongside this, not in opposition to it, we can have a good testimony and name. That is an exceedingly valuable thing, just as it is written.

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