Reputations. They are built over time and can take years to secure, but are painfully easy to taint. To have a good reputation is obviously desirable; it gets you friends, romances and jobs. It sets you apart as trustworthy. Your reputation is what lingers once you’ve left a room (hopefully not in the form of odour, but atmosphere).
Reputations are unavoidable and inevitable. If you are consistently late, grumpy or forgetful, you will be known among friends for being this way. If you regularly prove yourself as reliable, people will appreciate that in you and probably discuss among each other your proven reliability with each other. People are watching us and taking notes in their head. If someone cancels on me every time we make plans, I don’t hold their word for much when they say “lets meet up!”.
I’ve always been protective of my reputation, which essentially means I care what people think. I care about how I’m seen in social settings and what people know about my faults, which is never beneficial. We will never please everyone, and sometimes people will form opinions of us regardless of our behaviour. Being too aware of the reputation I am building has meant I’ve struggled to be myself, to have grace for my imperfections and mistakes. To be human.
I’m sure there are some people with whom I’ve earned a black mark by my name. It could have been something I said or did wrong and completely legitimate. Or it could have been a rumour. I remember one instance when there was a misunderstanding and a pretty harsh rumour spread about me. It killed me inside to think that people thought badly of me. When I found out months later, I desperately wanted to make it right; to correct the corruption. But it was too late.
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are and your reputation is merely what others think you are.” -John Wooden
When I think now of that situation, I shrug my shoulders. I know who I am. I know that people can vouch for me. I’m not perfect, but try my best to live openly and honestly. I’ve made some really bad calls, I’ve hurt people and I’ve hurt myself. That has inevitably tarnished my reputation with some people, and it’s a harsh fact of life.
Among other things, I’ve been bothered that I have a broken engagement in my history and worried that it will affect how people view me. To some people I’m the good girl, to others I’m a naughty Christian with a past. To myself, I’m all of that and more. Just a girl who’s finding her way, tripping up and getting back up again. I’m a million things to a million people, and you might be too.
By paying attention to my character and how I treat everyone I meet, I will also gain a good reputation. But it’s just a bonus. I’d rather spend my time and energy focusing on my strength of character; on what I’m learning from the mistakes I’ve made and continue to make. Our reputation is something to be mindful of but not strive for. Our character is what we should be really concerned about, because our whole life flows from who we are.
Do you have a reputation for a reason? Do you care a lot about what people think?