"Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing." — Abraham Lincoln
This is an appropriate analogy because a shadow shifts over time (just think of the daily cycle that the shadow goes through as the day progresses), the same can be said for all of us, what people think of us can change from time to time depending on what light is shining on us, and which way it casts the shadow, and where they are standing in relation to the source of the light.
The tree however has put down roots, it goes through the daily cycle of shifting light, it goes through the seasons, growing, dropping it’s leaves, dealing with rain, hail and shine. It bends back and forth only so far in a gentle breeze, but resists against strong wind. The tree is what it is, regardless of the light being shone on it.
Character refers to what a person is; reputation is what people in general think he is. Our reputation is only as good as that of which we are perceived. We can have a "good" reputation, or a "bad" reputation. However, we must realize that either of those are relative, and a "good" or "bad" reputation is only in the eye of the beholder.
The differences between your reputation and character are many:
- Reputation is what you are supposed to be; Character is what you are.
- Reputation is the photograph; Character is the face.
- Reputation comes over one from without; Character grows up from within.
- Reputation is what you have when you come to a new community; Character is what you have when you go away.
- Reputation is made in a moment; Character is built in a lifetime.
- Your reputation is learned in an hour; Your character doesn't come to light for a year.
- Reputation grows like a mushroom; Character grows like the oak.
- A single newspaper report gives you your reputation; A life of toil gives you your character.
- Reputation makes you rich or makes you poor; Character makes you happy or makes you miserable.
- Reputation is what men say about you on your tombstone; Character is what angels say about you before the throne of God.
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