I believe that there is nothing more valuable than one’s reputation. In fact, a good reputation can be an invaluable defense when you are accused of something that you did not do and your integrity is challenged.
I was 11 years old and on the way home from school when the yellow school bus I rode hit a pothole and the emergency door nudged open. An alarm sounded to alert the driver and I caught his eyes focus and then narrow in on me as he checked the rear view mirror. A dark cloud seemed to overtake his face as he pulled over to the side of the road, yellow safety lights flashing, alarm screaming, kids scattering. The driver strode back to my seat, grabbed me by the arm, and shoved me into another seat. “You pulled the emergency exit on the door”, he shouted. I told him that I had not done anything but it did not stop the driver’s angry accusations.
The next day the principal called me into the office. The principal, who had been a math teacher of mine in the past, was hurriedly filling out a detention slip when I interrupted to tell her that I had not done anything wrong. She blinked up at me, perhaps really noticing me for the first time and seemed to think for a moment. “You know,” she muttered almost to herself, “you’ve never really been one to say something that isn’t true.” She told me she didn’t really have the time to take the word of an 11 year old over the school bus driver, but that she would have the video of the incident sent to her office. A review of the video and a closer inspection of the exit found a faulty lever caused the door to pop open. My reputation had saved me.
The sum of who you are, who you have been, and how others know you to react and behave in bad situations and in good, is your reputation. There is really no way to know how one will react to a false accusation. Strangely, rather than instant anger, a false accusation can result in a feeling of helplessness. It hurts to have your honesty and integrity stained like obscene graffiti on an urban city wall. Sure, someone can come along the next day with a can of paint and a brush to try to paint over the graffiti, but you can always see a little bit of the stain through the paint.
However, I believe there is an irrefutable remedy to a false accusation, and it is surprisingly obvious. The sum of who you are, who you have been, and how others know you to react and behave in bad situations and in good, is your reputation. My reputation is valuable to me and I have earned mine. There is no price, no promise that can cause me to allow harm to come to it.
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