It takes years to build a reputation—and just a moment of indiscretion to destroy it.

I think of this when I recall a college friend who never got in trouble or caused any difficulty. But one day, in a moment of mischief, he threw a match into a waste can and started a fire that left part of our dorm scorched and his reputation burned beyond recognition. Whatever else he has done since then, his name remains associated with that reckless prank.

Often we think young people should be the most careful about their reputation, and indeed they need to protect their good name. But adults too can throw away their good name through one poor choice.

Think of David, who for many years bore the stigma of his sinful, adulterous liaison with Bathsheba. Even though he was forgiven, his reputation had been stained. We can’t be sure of the specific occasion for the writing of Psalm 38, but in it David describes the agony of living with the results of his sin. To avoid such pain, Scripture tells us to guard our heart (Prov. 4:23), to walk wisely (Eph. 5:15), and to follow in Jesus’ steps (1 Pet. 2:21).

It takes just a moment to destroy your good name and your testimony for God. Don’t let it happen to you.