I want people to see me the way I see myself – wise, intelligent, strong, steady, diligent, faithful and, oh yes, modest. And when they don’t, I have a tendency to feel offended, as if they have wronged me in some way. I have often tried to change someone’s perceptions of me by telling them how I really am. But they never seem to adopt my view of me in place of their own.
Well, after years of being frustrated by this, I’ve found the answer in a passage of Scripture:
Philippians 2:19-22 (NKJV) But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.
It’s all about proving your character to people
When the apostle Paul, in prison for proclaiming the Christian faith, needed someone he could trust to send in his place to the church at Philippi, he chose Timothy. Verse 22 tells us why: it was because Timothy was a young man of proven character. He had been tested and approved in terms of his faithfulness, teachableness, hard work, and reliability.
Timothy had shown himself faithful on a continuing basis. There was no inconsistency, no ups and downs, no days off. Because Timothy’s character had been proven, Paul was confident he could fully trust the young man to represent him among the Philippian believers. He knew from experience that whatever responsibilities he entrusted to Timothy would be faithfully carried out. He didn’t have to be concerned about dropped balls or incomplete efforts. Paul knew that he could trust Timothy because of his proven, faithful track record.
Character is proven by consistency over time
The proving of character is an every day process. In a real sense, it is a “what have you done for me lately” proposition. Having some good stretches here and there, interspersed with lapses, does not lead to proven character. You are what you are all the time. If there is inconsistency in your behavior, it is because there is inconsistency in your character.
What I have learned from Paul and Timothy is that character must be proven. People’s view of me is shaped not so much by what I try to tell them about myself, as by what they actually see in my behavior over time. So, when I receive feedback from someone that doesn’t fit my image of myself, I shouldn’t blame the person for insulting me! They are simply responding to who they have actually observed me to be. People view me in the light of my proven character.
People view you based on what they see in you, not on what you say about yourself
I remember a pick-up basketball game I got into with a group of guys who didn’t know me. The first couple of times I got the ball, I made some really good shots – totally by accident. The opposing team started treating me with great respect as a dangerous shooter. But then my real basketball character asserted itself in miss after miss. Pretty quickly, the opposing team started treating my shooting with contempt. They adjusted their view of me based on my proven basketball character.
So, anytime I don’t the get response I want from people, I need to see it as them telling me something about what I have proven to them by my behavior. The way to change their perceptions is to show them something different. And that takes time and consistency. I have to actually become what I want people to see in me.
Trying to talk or argue or browbeat people into seeing me as I wish to be seen just doesn’t work. People will respond to me based on my proven character. The only real way to change the way they see me is to consistently show them a different character over time.