How can a person maintain a good reputation as well as the favor of those around him or her? Even more important to us as believers is the thought of how we can have these things in the sight of God. The answer may be different than you think.
Two things you must have to enjoy favor and a good reputation among men and with God are kindness and truth. These two things are a perfect team. Some people are geared toward kindness more than anything else. They are very merciful people who can commiserate with anyone around them. They are a perfect shoulder to cry on - and they will always join with you in feeling your pain. When going through difficulties they will listen and love you no matter what. It is a blessing to be geared toward kindness - but there a liabilities as well. When you are geared toward kindness at all times, you will find it very difficult to share tough truths with people who really need to hear them. One of the pitfalls of being filled with kindness alone is that you can become someone who enables people to stay where they are when they desperately need change in their lives. For someone with a deep problem this can lead to an enabling relationship that allows them to continue with lifestyle choices like alcohol abuse, drug abuse, or sexual problems.
There are also those who are geared toward truth. They will speak the truth to you in all situations. In fact they have a difficult time with those who won't take a stand on an issue. These people are wonderful to have around when you need to have a confrontation in regard to sin - or s situation where only truth can remedy things. These people are people of integrity and honor. But, a problem can develop when only truth is spoken. The problem is not the truth verbalized, but the spirit in which is it spoken. Those given to truth sometimes lack the personal touch - the ability to speak the truth in love and with kindness. They can offend - not because of the truth they speak - but because of the way that they speak it.
This is why Proverbs tells us that we need to have both kindness and truth. There is a balance here. Both are needed to truly be a person who knows the blessing of having a good reputation and favor of both God and man. When these things are combined you have someone who speaks the truth in love. You have the person, who according to Proverbs, can speak the truth gently, and who can with a gentle word break a bone. These two things need to be bound around our neck and written uon our hearts. What you have when you have this is the character of Jesus Himself working and speaking through you. He had the ability to speak the truth in incredibly difficult situations. He did not back away from truth - but spoke the truth with kindness.
One of the most amazing examples of this was in John 8 when Jesus was tested by hypocritical men who brought a woman caught in adultery to Him. These men did not truly want justice - because they did not bring the man as well. They only wanted to have something with which to trap Jesus and give rise to criticism and the ability to destroy Him. The humiliated adultress was thrown right in front of Him, along with the question of whether He was going to agree with the Law that such a woman should be stoned for her offense. Jesus stated anyone without sin could cast the first stone. Here He spoke truth dealing with the hypocrisy of His accusers. Eventually they all left, knowing as they did their own sinfulness and hypocrisy. Jesus made His comments gently and graciously, the bent over to draw with a stick in the sand. Then after they all had left - He dealt with the woman. Offering her His love - and no condemnation for her sin - He spoke with great kindness to her. He asked where her accusers were - where those who sought to condemn here. She stated that none of them were left to condemn her. He then revealed that He was not going to condemn her either. But He did not stop with kindness only, there was the issue of her adultery. To this issue He spoke truth when He told her to go her way and sin no more. There it is perfectly demonstrated - kindness and truth bound together in one difficult situation.
When we do this - we won't be popular with everyone. But will will have favor and a good reputation with men because they know we will be fair and gracious with them. We will also know God's favor because we show both His love and His justice. It is a difficult balance to maintain. This is especially true with those bent in one direction or another - toward far more kindness or far more truth. We can thank God that in His Son He showed us what the perfect balance of the two looks like when walking among men. So if you want to have these two things, kindness and truth bound perfectly together, there is only one real source where you can have them. They only exist in perfect balance in Jesus Christ. Embrace Him and you will find that they are yours as well.