Abraham Lincoln was very concerned with the nature of character, but he was also aware of the importance of having a good reputation. He explained the difference this way: "Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing."
In today's world that is overly preoccupied with image, it is easy to worry too much about our reputation and too little about our character. Building a reputation is largely a public-relations project, but building character requires us to truly focus on our values, actions, and always following through with what we commit ourselves to on a continual daily basis. Noble rhetoric and good intentions just are not enough to build true character.
I truly feel that your reputation is what people think of you and your character is what you actually are! Reputations will change with our circumstances and can be made or destroyed in a brief moment, but character is built through a person's lifetime.
What we should be concentrating on is moral strength based on ethical principles. Character is revealed by our deeds and actions and not just words, especially when there is a gap between what we want to do, and what we should do, especially when doing the right thing costs more than we want to pay. Character is also not whether we accomplish our ambitions or goals in life, but how we truly live life through a lifetime.
Some think that the way we treat certain people cannot help or hurt us, like coworkers who we are in charge of, and people that are in a service positions like housekeepers, waiters, secretaries, and nurses, etc. How we treat these people truly displays more about our personal character than how we treat other's that we think are important.
Those who are honest, kind, and fair only when there is something to gain should never be confused with people of (real character) who demonstrate these qualities habitually, and under all circumstances and situations throughout their life.
Character is also revealed by how we deal with situations, pressures and temptations. It is also disclosed by our everyday actions, (including) what we say and do when we think no one is looking and fell that will not get caught. Reputations come and go, but character will hold you through the storms of life. If you spend your time and energy in constantly building strong character, you will never have to fear or be concerned about what others think of you.
As a Christian I know that God sees all, and that He remembers all, and is ultimately the final judge of our actions in a lifetime spent on earth. Reputation is what people say you are; character is what God knows you are. Character is not a fancy coat we put on for public show only. Character is who we truly are, and will be judged by accordingly, on earth as well as in heaven. If you always concentrate on building character, your reputation will build itself. Develop your character, and you will never have regrets.