Whenever I hear people talk of a political or religious leader as being principled, honest, or humble, alarm bells immediately go off in my head. The reason? From bitter experience, I have learned that “principled” people will often do and say anything in order to have their way, “honest” people are often the biggest liars who have ever lived, and those who are “humble” often take the greatest pride in their exhibitions of public humility. Such people are often quite good at public relations, and little else.
This is not to say that principled, honest, and humble people do not exist. Rather, it is to say that true virtue does not parade itself and ask for applause. True virtue is willing to sacrifice its reputation on the altar of righteousness, to do what is good whatever the personal cost.
Of course there are those as well who glory in martyrdom and sacrifice, holding these up as evidence of worth. However, in the eternal realm, the admiration and applause they receive from others is the only reward that will ever get. The martyrdom and sacrifice may have been extreme, but unless it was unto God and according to his will, it is worthless to him.
It is right and proper to strive to have a good a reputation, but we should do so by first and foremost being good, realizing that many people who actually are good–such as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ–have been reviled and disdained by the rest of the world as people of ill-repute. At the same time, we need to know people by their actions, and not by the measure of applause they receive from an adoring public.