"A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the Maker of them all." Proverbs 22:1-2
Not too long ago, I signed up for a new email service. I have several email addresses, but I did not like any of the personal addresses that I currently had. All of the good names were already taken, and I was left with some random numbers after my name (and an extra initial from my middle name); it was not a good name. So, when a new email service came up that allowed you to pick fresh from any name and create a new personal email, I jumped at the opportunity. I was able to get my name, and I was thrilled!
That's a trivial example, and it did not cost me any gold for a new email address (though it was not free), but it was important to me to have my name on something. Solomon says that a good name is better than riches. He is talking about more than your written name; rather he is talking about the essence of who you are. He is talking about the way people react when they hear you are coming near them. Money might get you in the room, but your name and integrity are what will keep you in the game for the long run. Integrity cannot be bought in a store or fabricated in a warehouse. Integrity (your good name) is worth fighting to keep intact.
Reap What You Sow
"Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail. Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor. Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease. He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend." Proverbs 22:8-11
If you plant peace, you will reap righteousness. If you plant injustice, you will reap calamity. Small seeds produce a great harvest, but those seeds do not become a different plant in the process. We have learned through reading Proverbs that what is inside of our hearts will come out in our speech and action. If your heart is pure, then you will speak with grace and truth. If your heart is full of strife, you will become a scoffer and bring quarreling and abuse along with you. Choose purity, choose grace.
It's a Trap
"Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts." Proverbs 22:24-26
Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker, said that "we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with." The people you surround yourself with will shape who you are and who you will become. Solomon says the same thing here in verse 24; we are influenced by people that we allow into our inner circle. Maybe Tom from MySpace actually knew what he was doing when he allowed you to list your Top Friends back in the mid-2000s. If you don't remember MySpace, just reach out to someone who was born between 1982-1990 and ask them who their Top Friends were on MySpace. When you look at your circle of friends, who comes to mind? Are you happy with those choices? If not, you may need to take an opportunity to make a change to your friend group.
Maybe you need to pray and ask God to bring some new friends into your life. Are you spending time with angry and hateful people? It might be time to take inventory of your relationships and consider a new path forward this year. Those friends will bring you down with them because (as we have already mentioned) misery loves miserable company. It does not take long for the people who you give an opening in your life to begin to influence your choices. Are you feeling negative about the world right now? Consider who you are listening to. You may think you are stronger than someone else's opinions, but that is not true. We are a people meant for community and that means the community we find ourselves in will shape us.
Reflect and Respond
Are your friends building you up, or are they tearing you down? It may feel like you are coasting through life, but the reality is that you can only coast when you are going downhill. If you are not actively pursuing wisdom in community, then there are probably people in your life who are seeking to bring you down to their level. Don't jump down into the pit! Walk in wisdom and practice gracious speech today.