If it weren’t for our health, wealth, and reputation, what concerns could we possibly have in life? If health includes love and happiness, and wealth means having every provision necessary for living in abundance, what would be left to prompt anxiety? Ah, yes … reputation! It is our reputation, and the ego that wants to control and protect it, that looms large in our psyche. How do others see us and judge our standing in the community in terms of the image we project. Let’s take a closer look at these three categories, with special attention to reputation.
If you combine the messages that we receive from the outside, especially the plethora of pharmaceutical commercials and what our bodies tell us internally, we have reached the point of critical mass. Things have accelerated to where medications are developed for conditions that are not even named yet.
“Restless Leg Syndrome” is one example of this phenomenon. Oftentimes, a drug that is developed and tested is found to have a side effect that produces a positive, unexpected outcome. This happens in other areas as well. Post-it notes came into existence as a result of testing a type of superglue. Accidental discoveries are delightful, except perhaps in the case of a preponderance of medications that are marketed to an already fixated, overly health conscious society.
When we cross the line from healthy concern to excessive anxiety, we have reached the point of diminishing returns. Once we have devoted a reasonable amount of time and prayer to a given situation or circumstance, we should proceed knowing that we have done all we can. We are told from the lips of Jesus not to worry about our bodies (cf. Matthew 6:25) and that our Heavenly Father will provide for all of our physical needs.
Wealth is another area that is packaged and marketed by everyone from credit card companies to brokerage firms. A million dollars used to buy financial security and a fairly liberal pattern of spending for life. Now, many advise us to have a million dollar portfolio as a minimum, and that it should be carefully drawn down to ensure its longevity. Being a millionaire doesn’t mean what it used to mean just a few decades ago.
Wealth, as it pertains to the acquisition of goods and services, is definitely a moveable feast. When is enough ever enough? If money is managed properly, a small, fixed amount can suffice. If money is squandered and managed improperly, no amount will suffice.
The same Scripture quoted above also applies to wealth. Jesus refers to what we wear as a means to trust in God’s provision. The story of Midas, although not found in scripture, teaches us that all the wealth in the world will not satisfy our deepest longings.
What will the neighbors think? How will I appear to others? What will this incident do to my reputation? These are all questions that are driven by the promotion and maintenance of the personas we nurture and present to others. It has been said that there are three views to consider regarding our personhood: God’s view, how others view us, and how we view ourselves.
Jesus closes His discourse on the Beatitudes by teaching that there is a blessing “when men revile and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11). Much of what we suffer as it relates to reputation is “falsely uttered”. Gossip finds its way into our lives from the breakfast table to the water cooler to happy hour and beyond. A wounded reputation can be put into proper perspective if we are grounded in the sincerity of doing God’s will.
While we should have a healthy concern about our reputation, we should be on guard against needless anxiety over what others say or don’t say about us. The only views that really matter are God’s view and how we see ourselves in the light of His gaze. The gaze (or stares) of others can easily displace our firm stance in God’s light. Our own gaze (or the gaze we devote to our navels) can do the same. A desirable posture to maintain in regard to our reputation would be the one that places us in the most direct exposure to God’s light.
Let us pray that in the course of daily life, we may attend to the needs of body, mind, and spirit in God’s will and to rely on Divine Providence. The trinity of health, wealth, and reputation can be most effectively realized and nurtured through, in and with the eternal gaze and love of the Blessed Trinity.