“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation,
and only one bad one to lose it.”
One thing that was pounded into young men in my generation was the importance of building a good reputation. It’s hard work, because your reputation is the public reflection of your character. It is what other people see and come to believe about your character. It’s based on what you do. It’s based on what you say. It’s based on how you act. It’s based on how you treat other people, and how you make other people feel. There are few things more important than reputation when it comes to our success, or our failure as a person. It can take years to build a reputation—it can take mere seconds to destroy it. It is something we should be very deliberate about building, and very careful about protecting because it is the essence of who we are. And it’s very difficult to rebuild a reputation after you’ve allowed it to become tarnished.
I don’t deserve the reputation I have.
I hear that a lot. It’s very rarely ever true. You see, you can have a few people in your life that have an unfavorable opinion of you. Everyone does. But your reputation is what most people that know you think of you. If you have a reputation of being opinionated and outspoken, chances are you’re opinionated and outspoken. If you have a reputation for being undependable, you’re probably undependable. Sometimes people don’t think that’s fair—but reputation is based on a very sound principle. It’s based on your past behavior, and any employer or supervisor will tell you that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.
I’m going to to say what I want to say, and do what I want to do, and I don’t really care what other people think.
I hear that a lot, too. Sounds very tough and defiant, but actually it’s a childish attitude to have. That selfish and narcissistic attitude demonstrates a complete lack of care or concern for other people—most specifically those that love you and care about you. Your reputation reflects on you, sure, but you don’t think it also reflects on your spouse? On your kids? Your family? Your community? Your church? Your fraternity? Your employer? You’ve never heard anybody say, “she’s a real nice lady, but her husband is a real jerk.” You’ve never heard somebody say, “I don’t know why he hangs around with that guy—he’d steal the shirt right off your back.” Of course you have. Your actions affect everyone around you whether that’s your intention or not.
Building a solid reputation is hard, because it requires an amazing amount of self discipline. It requires us to learn from our mistakes and not continue to repeat them—those are the lessons that mature into wisdom eventually. It requires us to learn when it is important for us to speak, and when it’s better to remain silent. It requires us to to listen to others, and respect their point of view. It requires us to admit when we are wrong, and to apologize when it’s appropriate. It requires us to be truthful and honest in all of our dealings. It requires us to do the things we say we’re going to do regardless of how difficult the task may be.
Men of good reputation and solid character used to be more common than they are today. We don’t teach the value of it anymore. Our society is so focused inward on ourselves, and our own selfish needs. We are a society of grown children, fighting and arguing on social media just like children used to fight and argue on the playground. We’ve never grown up and become men, because we haven’t had the role models. And just like children, we don’t think about what we’re saying, and we don’t think about what our words and actions are saying about us.
We’d all be better off if we worked a lot harder at building ourselves as decent human beings rather than focusing so intently on satisfying our selfish needs. And those of us who are able should focus on not only modeling those honorable character traits, but teaching others to be men of good character. Men of good report. Men of unquestioned reputation.
~Todd E. Creason