October 27th, 2007, Mapo Family Churc, Seoul Korea
But if we have a negative reputation, let’s not lose hope; we can change it. But we have to focus on character, not on building the reputation. So let’s not give up. The really important part about walking, practicing, about living a life of blessing, is that it’s every day. We want to be a blessing to people every day. So let’s not give up. Nobody’s totally perfect, no-body is without flaw. Everybody has someone who is not supportive of them.
Yeon Ah Nim’s Message:
Good evening, brothers and sisters. It’s a great honor to have you here at Mapo Church today. My husband and I came back from Japan yesterday and we had a great time to get to know many wonderful and inspiring members in Japan.
In one of the church in Japan we met a British sister; her name is Elizabeth. She is blessed with a Japanese brother. They have 5 beautiful children from 10 to 17 years old. We met her at a photo session and we met her again for breakfast. Somehow my husband and I felt that she needs an embrace, so before I left the room, I kind of gave her a big hug and we left the room.
Later on we found out that she was suffering from the last stage of cancer. So before we left the church my husband gave her the words of blessing. My husband told her, “You can overcome this and you’ll be ok. You will not only live to see your children but also enjoy with them.”
In the time of struggle it is more important to give empathy,
encouragement and install hope to that person. In my personal lifetime
my mother went to spirit world after she suffered from illness for a
long time. For the last time I saw her, she encouraged me and told me
that I should have hope in my life.
So today I would like to ask you to pray for those who are suffering
internally or externally. And I hope that you pray with me for their
health, happiness and peace of mind.
We love you, brothers and sisters and we really believe in you! Thank you so much!
When I was in seminary, at Divinity School, we particularly liked to look at some religious jokes. And so this one I came across. It’s quite an interesting one.
It’s a story about 2 friends, John and Michael. John was very thankful to Michael and he was talking to Michael, “Michael, I’m so grateful for all the joy that you’ve given me. In my times of darkness you’ve been there. You’ve been my shoulder to lean on. You really give me a lot of consolation. You told me I can overcome any obstacle. I’m so grateful for you. Every time I was down with myself, every time I doubted myself, you were the one who is able to lift me up, to give me again a sense of confidence so I can move on.”
And after that John looked at Michael but Michael was kind of lazy eyed. John noticed that he was not paying attention, so John asked him, “Michael, are you paying attention? Give me some sign that you’re hearing me. Give me some sign that you’re listening to the words that I’m sharing with you today.” And Michael said, “Woof, Woof!”(Laughing)
And John put him back into his cage.
I’d like to talk to you today about letting your divine character shine. We can look at the word, “character” and then contrastingly we can look at the word ‘reputation’. Many times we may have difficulty distinguishing the difference between character and reputation. When we look at the original etymology or the meaning of the word, we see that in Greek, “character” means something like an engraved mark, something that’s engraved. Metaphorically this is extended to mean some defining quality of a person.
Reputation originally meant consideration, more spe-cifically, how other people consider you. What is the real difference between character and reputation? Reputation is the word which refers to what other people think of me, the opinion of others upon me, in respect to integrity and attainment…a reputation for honesty for example. Character is not necessarily what other people may think of me, but who I actually am. That’s the difference.
When we look at the principle, there’s the story of Noah. Noah had character. God asked him to do something quite large for his age, to build the ark. For his peers, it was kind of insane, for lack of a better word. In Genesis, you recall the scene where Noah is laying there in his birthday suit, and Noah rebukes Ham for making Shem and Japheth shameful. As you recall from the Principle, they focused on reputation, on what other people were thinking of them, instead of what God was intending for that time. So Ham was unable to restore through indemnity that of-fering and could not fulfill the foundation of substance. So God had to move on.
In the end, we have to live our lives with the imagination that there are no secrets in this world. Eventually, people get through our reputations, what other people think of us, and our character begins to show. So it’s very important, if we want to live a life of blessing that we try our best in what we are doing, and that we assume or imagine that there are really no secrets in our lives. Everyone has made mistakes in the past. Maybe we said something to hurt someone. Maybe there is a situation in our past that we are not so proud of. So how do you get over this? How do I deal with such an issue?
Firstly, we have to ask the question, “Who is it that we hurt, that still pulls at our conscience, that we know in our hearts I have to heal with this person?” I have to come to peace with this person. It’s important that we go out of our way to come to peace with that person. Of course, we can’t come to peace with every single person. We may have insulted someone without even knowing it, but with those that we KNOW we hurt, because of something we said that we regret, or some situation we regret — it’s important that if we are going to build character that we go to that per-son and come to peace with that person.
Two, from now focus on not repeating mistakes, and focus on building character. I heard an in-teresting story about a young Korean celebrity. She had a long series of dramas. She had one soap opera drama that was very famous. And she was portrayed as the perfect daughter in law. So she had a really great reputation. Everyone viewed her as the daughter in law that everyone wants to marry and bring home and show to the family. She’s that perfect daughter-in- law. But a couple of years later, even with that reputation in her own life, she was eventually found out to have been committing adultery with another man who had children. That wife sued her, and when the police came to the celebrity, she was found to be taking narcotics. So her career plummeted. Five years later, she tried to build up her career again, but she could not reach the same level of celebrity that she had. Often celebrities focus on reputation, but it’s really impor-tant that we learn to focus on character building, because that’s where we become deeper, where we make life more worthwhile.
In the Confucian tradition, in the analects scroll 5, it says, “The superior man does not even for the space of a single meal act contrary to virtue. In moments of haste, he cleaves to it. In sea-sons of danger he cleaves to it.”
The Master later says, “Virtue is not left to stand alone. He, who practices it, will have neighbors.” Notice that people who practice character become easy to live with. They are good husbands and wives and children and dads and moms to live with. But what if we have not such a good reputation. Maybe that’s that case for some of us today. Maybe we are motivated to make a change in our lives. Maybe we want to improve our reputation. Can a negative reputa-tion change? The answer is yes, it can change. It takes effort and focus. Focus on character building.
If we have a negative reputation, the tendency will be to try to build a better reputation, and not focus on building better character traits. Over time the character behind your reputation will come out. We have to learn how to focus on building that character. How do we do that? There are certain ways we can do that. We can learn to meditate, to cultivate patience, internal peace, reflecting on ourselves and our weaknesses, (not beating ourselves up), growing beyond those.
I saw a little helpful model or formula. Focus + daily improvement + time = genius. Whether you are trying to build character or be a great astronaut, we need to learn how to focus our mind, focus our energies. We need to learn to improve on a daily basis and given those two factors, it is just a matter of time before we become a genius at it, before we become recognizably good at the particular task.
It is important when we are building character, to give yourself credit. Don’t forget that. Give yourself credit for things you have done right. Give yourself that credit. You deserve it. And let’s continue to do them with sincerity. Even though we may be fixing portions that we need to fix, let’s remember the things that we are doing well and continue to do them. If we stay consistent with character building, your reputation will follow. It will take time, it may even take a year or more for your character to have a big impact on your reputation, but it does make a change.
I remember one time in my own life when Young-jin hyung confronted me and he said to me, “You know, the worst thing you can be in life is a hypocrite.” And at that point, he was telling me, “You’re being a hypocrite.” It was at a time when I was very arrogant and entitled and had a huge ego, but I didn’t have the character and confidence. I had a strong outside but a weak and fragile inside. And he called me on that. And he told me, “You are being hypocritical.” I remem-ber when we were at camp, I would wait for him to start eating before I would start, to show re-spect. But when we were alone together, I wasn’t waiting for him. I was like, “Give me that food! I want to eat it!” So he was calling me on it and saying I was hypocritical. In front of people I was listening to him, but behind I was arguing with him, “What are you crazy?!” So he was calling me on it saying, “You’re being hypocritical here.” Interestingly, when he passed, those words con-tinued to ring in my ears. When I started taking up ascetical practices in my 21 year course, the first stage, the foundation stage?one of my central practices (of course there was meditation and prayer) was identifying places where I am hypocritical, trying to end hypocrisy within myself and trying to improve that. Everybody has some level of hypocrisy in their life. To realize and change and improve that is central to training our character. I am grateful to Young-jin hyung for teaching me that.
One of the things I try to do with my kids is to reinforce certain character traits. I tell my children, when they are down on themselves, beating themselves up, being negative, “You know what? You guys have the four Cs: Character, Confidence, Compassion and a Can-do attitude. You guys have the 3Ps, Perseverance Persistence and Patience. You have the 3 I’s Initiative, Imagination, and Immunity to insult.” I love that one, “I’m immune to insult!” I repeated this maybe a dozen times or so to my kids when they are feeling negative toward themselves and not believing in themselves.
It is very striking. My kids told me a story. When they were at the playground doing their thing enjoying themselves, some other kids gathered around them and were making fun of them, saying this and that. And my boys said, “Appa! You know what we did? We said to them, ‘we have armor! I am immune to insult! Your insults bounce off of me! I will not be conquered by your negativity!’” When I heard that, I said, “My God! This is making some kind of impact on them.” They told me that they kept a positive attitude. They didn’t fight or do any of that, and they did not let those boys sour their day. They didn’t let them steal their fun and enjoyment, the playground and the good times they were having. I told them, “You go boys! You keep it up! You guys are doing it!” I was so very proud of them.
A group of ethicists in 1992 came together and this is a famous declaration called the “Aspen Declaration.” I’d like to show you this today. It’s really about certain things of character. Here we can see how do we improve our character? These are some examples of what we can do in our lives, on a day to day basis. In the Aspen Declaration, we have things like Trustworthiness: don’t deceive or steal, be reliable, be loyal to your family and friends and country. Under Re-spect we have: treat others with respect, don’t use bad language, deal peacefully with anger, insults or disagreements.
Another character trait would be Responsibility: persevere, keep trying, think before you act, be accountable for your choices. Fairness: play by the rules, don’t take ad-vantage of others, and don’t blame others carelessly. Caring: be compassionate and show your care, forgive others and help people in need. Citizenship: do your share to make your school or community better, cooperate, get involved in community affairs, respect the authorities, and pro-tect the environment. Those would be examples of what we can do on a daily basis.
I also came across this very interesting piece that contrasted reputation and character:
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 into 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 one hour. Your character does not come to light for over 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 mis-erable.
Reputation is what people say about you on your tombstone. Character is what angels say about you before the throne of God.
I thought that was quite telling for this day. What can we learn today? Wherever we focus, that is what we will build up. So it’s very important that as we’re practicing and walking together, and this goes mostly for myself, it is important that we focus on developing the character strengths that will give us longevity, strength, and a life worth living. And if we’ve had mistakes then it’s important for us to apologize to those people. And it’s important not to beat ourselves up or live in fear for the rest of our lives, but to really try our best. We want to focus on building character and not only reputation. But if we have a negative reputation, let’s not lose hope; we can change it. But we have to focus on character, not on building the reputation. So let’s not give up. The really important part about walking, practicing, about living a life of blessing, is that it’s every day. We want to be a blessing to people every day. So let’s not give up. Nobody’s totally perfect, no-body is without flaw. Everybody has someone who is not supportive of them. But if we do our part, if we practice building character vs. only building reputation, not only will a good reputation follow, but we can live with peace in our minds. We can live with more knowledge and wisdom, and we can live the blessed life that True Parents have blessed us to live.
Till next week I hope to encourage you, when you see yourself, to see yourself with the eyes of God. When God and True Parents see you, they see you as a VIP. He doesn’t see you as a negative person, as somebody who is not able to succeed, without talents, unattractive. No. You have the opposite of those things. You have attractiveness, capability, and you have what it takes to succeed. You are victorious. You will be victorious in the things that you do. It’s important that we see ourselves like that and envision our life in such a manner. So let’s do that. VIP, as I try to remind brothers and sisters every week, stands for Victory, Illumination, and Peace. Let’s have a little more of each in our lives. Brothers and sisters, can you receive this today? Thank you so much.