Conditioning and Reputation

About a month ago, John Piper spoke at a conference for the American Association of Christian Counselors.

If you’ve listened to or read Piper much, you know he’s not a funny guy (the audio can be found here, the pertinent section is the first five minutes). I don’t say that as a criticism, but simply as a fact. He rarely tells jokes during sermons or lectures. But at this conference a short time ago, Piper got multiple big laughs in the first few minutes of his lecture.

The problem lies in this: he wasn’t telling jokes. He was confessing sin. In the first few minutes he talks about his failures as a pastor and particularly as a husband, in some detail. And yet they chuckled.


Because apparently for several days every speaker had been somewhat of a comedian (once again, I’m not criticizing here…I like humor and jokes in sermons, lectures, books, etc.). They had told jokes and got laughs. So by the time Piper got up there, the audience was conditioned to laugh and expect humor. The speakers, over the course of a few days, built that reputation and thus drastically influenced what the audience came to expect of the speakers, even Piper.

The effects of conditioning and reputation are quite powerful. What reputation are you building with those around you? In what ways does that influence what people expect of you?

Are you such a joke-teller and funny man, that people can’t take you seriously when you are attempting to be? Have you built a reputation that causes your kids to not take you seriously even in stern moments of discipline? Have you built up a reputation of being quick-tempered so that your spouse hears anger from you even when it’s not there? Do your co-workers expect laziness and half-hearted work from you? Do your friends expect you to be aloof because of your consistent pattern of dealing with them?

Conditioning and reputation are powerful things.

I’ll leave us with this proverb (Proverbs 3:3-4):

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute
in the sight of God and man.

Notice that love and faithfulness is “bound around your neck” and “written on your heart.” They’re ever present, they’re noticeable. That’s how you build a reputation, that’s how you condition people to expect certain things from you.

So what’s your reputation?

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