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\”Reputation\” – Word of the Week

Definition of the word of the week (REPUTATION): 1) The general estimation in which a person is held by the public. 2) A specific characteristic or trait ascribed to a person.

American editor A.L. Linall once wrote, “Good character is like a rubber ball – thrown down hard – it bounces right back. Good reputation is like a crystal ball – thrown for gain – it shatters and cracks.” A reputation is something that takes a long time to develop but a short time to destroy. Although a damaged reputation can be restored, it is similar to gluing a broken vase back together with epoxy. The vase will be whole once again but you will keep your eye on the crack and never treasure the vase in quite the same way as you did before.

Our reputations precede us and tend to open or close doors and people’s minds based on their perceptions. I remember two young men who joined an organization at almost the same time. Bill had the reputation for having a strong work ethic and being a “good guy.” John had the reputation for cutting corners and putting forth a minimal effort whenever he could get away with it. Initial impressions tended to give added credence to their reputations.

As time went on, they each happened to make a relatively major mistake. When Bill erred, his supervisor said, “He’s a really good guy and just made a mistake. Don’t we all?” The supervisor took no further action and moved on. When John erred, his supervisor said, “See, I told you that he was not much good, and his mistake proves my point.” Later, Bill was promoted to a more important position but John was passed over.
I knew both Bill and John and did not discern a significance difference in their characters. So, I was surprised at the reaction from the supervisors but it reinforced the importance of having a good reputation and making a good first impression.

Although one’s reputation is important, one’s character is much more important. Reputation is like one’s reflection in the mirror—it is what people see. But character is the true “self” that we may try to hide from the world but cannot hide from ourselves or our Creator. Coach John Wooden, ESPN’s Coach of the Century perhaps said it best. He said, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

The following quotations are intended to assist in explaining and exemplifying the word of the week:

The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests. Epicurus, Greek philosopher

Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. Abraham Lincoln, President

Glass, china and reputation are easily cracked, and never mended well. Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father

There are two ways of establishing a reputation, one is to be praised by honest people and the other to be accused by rogues. It is best, however, to secure the first one, because it will always be accompanied by the latter. Charles Colton, Sportswriter

Concealed talent brings no reputation. Erasmus, humanist

If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of me. Dwight Moody, Evangelist

Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation. It is better to be alone than in bad company. George Washington, President

You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do. Henry Ford, Industrialist

A man’s character is the reality of himself; his reputation, the opinion others have formed about him; character resides in him, reputation in other people; that is the substance, this is the shadow. Henry Ward Beecher, Writer

Reputation is only a candle, of wavering and uncertain flame, and easily blown out, but it is the light by which the world looks for and finds merit. James Lowell, Poet

A reputation once broken may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep their eyes on the spot where the crack was. Joseph Hall, Author

The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear. Socrates, Greek philosopher

Reputation is what men and women think of us. Character is what God and the angels know of us. Thomas Paine, Author

LTC Patrick Beer, the Dean of Students and Commandant of Cadets at Georgia Military College, prepares this study guide each week as part of the institution’s character education program. He welcomes comments and suggestions from readers. He can be contacted by phone, 478-445-2710 or by email, pbeer@gmc.cc.ga.us