Your character goes before you.  Those were the encouraging words spoken to me as I prepared to face an audience of my peers who had been going out of their way to discredit me and ruin my reputation.  Until then I had never really considered the difference between character and reputation. defines character as “the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing”; and reputation as “the estimation in which a person or thing is held, especially by the community or the public”.  In other words, our character comes from within and defines how we live.  Our reputation is what others see and believe about us.  People won’t know our true character if it is stained by our reputation.

To say that your character goes before you means that people will see the values by which you live your life.  When people say or do things to hurt us or to try to make us look bad, it is actually a poor reflection of their own character.   In the end, they are the ones who look bad.  One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 12:23: The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly. This verse proved itself true in the case of my peers who tried so diligently to hurt me.   In the end, their pride and foolishness earned them the reputation of being untrustworthy and dishonest and eventually cost them their jobs. Proverbs also tells us: “Pride goes before destruction…” (16:18)

Other people may say untrue things about you and try to ruin your reputation, but no one can take your character away from you.  Your character goes before you.