I’ll be speaking to a ladies’ Bible study group in a few weeks and, in thinking about what my topic would be, I decided to speak on a topic that has been rolling around in my head for a while now, and it is the value of your name and reputation.
I liked that topic so much that is my theme for today. I want to talk about the value of your name and reputation. When people hear your name, what do they think? What comes to mind when someone says your name? Now, for some of you, don’t fall out of your chair, because you know what people think of you when they hear your name…and it’s not good. I’ll get back to that in a minute.
If you’re like me, you hope that when people hear your name that it is a positive response. Not only do I hope that the response is one that reflects my abilities, but also, if it is a close friend, I trust the memory will show my heart and who I really am or what I have become.
If I were to give you a list of my titles, they vary from business partner to business owner, author, city council member, water commissioner, auctioneer, real estate agent, manufacturer, antique store owner, speaker, radio host…and I can go and on. You find out over time that there are other titles for you, too, like the hammer or boss lady and, without a doubt, I’m sure there are titles that I’ve been called that I shouldn’t say on the radio.
Like you, I hope as we get older those old names and titles that don’t reflect us anymore really just go away, and I trust our former friends and family replace them with good thoughts and great memories of times gone by.
Of course, the unfortunate fact is, some people will never like you or me and so they either make up titles and names for us or do their best to destroy our good name. If you’ve been in politics or business long enough, you know who to stay away from, because, no matter what we do, the mean and crazy people will use the only thing they have, and that is the verbal destruction of our good name, so it’s best to stay away from those people. I’ve found that, over time, word does get out that they are a nut.
I admit that the older I get, the less impressed I am with titles, because titles come and go, and I have found that many times the title might be the best thing about a person because their actions and attitudes are awful (and that’s what we remember). The reality is, that a title is just something that is given if you stay at a place long enough, and, just because your name is on the block of wood that sits on your office desk, it may not reflect who you really are.
I’ve met some amazingly well titled people who are dreadful to their employees, who are unkind to their spouses and treat others with disdain. Now, in most cases, that troubled attitude is just a cover-up for an empty person, and, unfortunately, we can’t fix that. So all those people that I’ve now stirred up in your mind who are mean and awful, well, put their memory away for now, and let’s talk about you and your reputation and how you are thought of today and when you are dead and gone.
Most every religious text will have a passage about the value of a good name. In the Bible it says that a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.
The simple fact is, that a good reputation will provide for you in ways that money never can. I am going to equate the value associated with your name to the idea of the value of having a reputation that is admired by others, because, really, that is what I’m talking about. Your title is not your reputation, your name is. In fact, your name and reputation are interwoven so closely, that it is wise to think about how you “show up” to others.
I think one of the most interesting things that has shown up in the last few years on the Internet is all the services that can help clean up your name and reputation by simply pulling all the bad information about you (or your company) out of circulation on the World Wide Web.
Now wouldn’t that be great, if in life we could just hire a firm to scour the minds of all the people we know and fill the damaged places with good and happy thoughts about us and our reputation? That would be a very cool thing, but, alas, it won’t happen, so you and I have to be the guardian of our name and reputation.
Let me give you the top three actions (that I see) that people will not forget or forgive and that will damage your name and reputation forever:
You owe money. Somewhere, somehow, someone thinks or knows you didn’t pay your bill. You borrowed money with a promise to pay it back, and you’ve not done it. Or you had someone co-sign on a loan and you bailed, leaving them to pay your bill. When you owe money, there is nothing that can save your name or reputation, because you now have a new name: thief, robber, one who steals. And they don’t just tell their family; they tell everyone they meet that you don’t pay your bills or that you still owe them money. Ouch! If there is a way to correct this, I encourage you to bite the bullet and pay off the debt or start a payment plan. Something is better than nothing, and when you do nothing, they will do everything in their power to wreck your name and reputation. There is something about money that makes normally good people insane and angry, so do you part, pay your bills and stop with your excuses, because the only way out is by paying up.
The second issue I hear that will haunt you for life is…
You borrowed something and didn’t return it or broke it. You know the feeling. Every time you see the person you borrowed the item from, you hide, so you don’t have to talk with them, or when they see you they bring it up every time that you borrowed something and didn’t return it, or you broke it and the old one that you borrowed was better than the new one that you replaced it with. You can’t win for losing on this one. It’s best to return or replace and be done…and quickly. Let that be a lesson to you not to borrow anything from anyone because it rarely turns out good. The Good Book says, the borrower is servant to the lender…and throughout history it never changes.
The third one is one that breaks up friends and family for all time, and it is if…
By your actions you caused someone hurt and/or humiliation. Depending on who they are and if they can find within themselves to really forgive, you might be spared, but, from my coaching, I hear that most people will never forgive. Even if they lie and say they forgive, they will never forget (so they never really forgive), and then they will walk around wounded because of what you said. Too bad you couldn’t keep your mouth shut (but you didn’t), and now you and everyone they can talk to will hear about how you’ve hurt them, destroyed them, broke their heart and now they can’t trust anyone anymore. Country music has made a million dollars on this one action…so think about it, friend.
Now, know that there are 2 parts to hurt and/or humiliation. The first is, if at all possible, you need to truly apologize (and I’d suggest taking another friend with you when you give your apology, so you have a witness), and once you’ve done your part, that’s really all you can do. The second part is, we all know that some people love to hang onto their hurt so they can spend the rest of their life nursing that hurt in hopes of hurting you. You can’t fix that—all you can do is say you’re sorry and mean it, and then be kind to them and stay out of their way.
See, when it comes to your name and reputation, let me remind you of rule number one in politics: If I can label you, I can destroy you. So, friends, do not allow others to label you, and don’t do anything that would give others a chance to cause your good name harm.
There is not enough money in the world to fix a bad reputation. They’ll be glad to take your money, but they will still speak poorly of you every chance they get. Correct early and often, and you’ll save yourself in the end.
Life is too hard and too short to have to spend your days defending yourself when, if you’d just be wise and kind and considerate, you could leave a legacy that others would admire and respect.
And the best part is that it is ALL up to you: You make these choices. You make these decisions. You are in control, and, even if you’ve made mistakes in the past, YOU can start again with a clean slate and the good will to rebuild your good name.
When all is said and done, our good name is all we have, so care for yours—value it and protect it, and it will reward you and your family’s legacy for a lifetime, and that would be a title worth having.