Character Versus Reputation

“A person’s true character is revealed by what he does when no one is watching.”– Unknown

Stories abound of individuals taking shortcuts all around. There remain not very many areas untouched by this scourge. It is easy to find them across politics to public service, industry to customer service, from expense reporting to misuse of funds and so on and so forth. Keeping false pretenses is a typical incident, more so among the privileged and the resourceful.

We listen to reports of people who forgot to practice what they taught in the midst of myriads of followers. It will be an absurdity on our part to fix the same label on everybody. However, the ones that display such reprehensible character create a severe blow on others. It turns seekers of knowledge into lifelong skeptics.

Coming back to the real world of selfless giving, we find much relief in the never-ending streams of volunteers. These selfless individuals help the needy in demanding conditions and even endure personal risk. They enjoy giving the most precious and non-renewable gift of ‘time.’ Such devoted souls have an abiding faith in the German Proverb:

Charity sees the need, not the cause.

Our character revolves around the values we hold dear. It is the underlying passion to serve that helps protect our values. The commitment to help the poor, the needy, the underprivileged or those under distress can survive any challenge if only we put our heart and soul into it. Money, more often than not, creates barriers. It stops us from taking our noble feelings out into the field. Yet, there are examples galore of people living frugally to feed their inner urge and keep giving. Nothing can force them to keep those feelings sealed within. So many outstanding individuals propound the theory: ‘It does not matter what we intend to do, what matters, though, is what we do.’

Our elders have always insisted on the theory of giving first to receive after. Let us examine why! The fact surfaces every time we shake hands with others. We extend our own hand for someone to hold before we can hold his or her hand. Chains that hold the most ferocious animals in control have links that go one into each other to build strength. You can never make a strong chain by just touching the links; they must interlink.

Taking this exact example into our daily lives, we can build a strong character by giving part of ourselves to others’ benefit. It will help us get parts of so many others to support us in return. The inherent value is evident in the following words of wisdom:

“A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.”

– Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the 19th Century British “Prince of Preachers”

The character is what we build in a painstaking fashion to help dictate our conduct; reputation is a gift from others, beyond our own control!

“A man’s reputation is what other people think of him; his character is what he really is.” – Unknown

Talking of reputation, let us keep in mind the tried and tested recipe of computer logic: ‘Input determines the output.’ Reputation is something we need to earn bit by bit. It is not a commodity. One important facet of reputation is that it remains fragile. We could spend our entire life building reputation through many acts of goodwill wherever possible. Yet, a small misstep taken in hindsight could shatter it to pieces within no time.

While we take pains to build character, our daily acts of helpfulness and giving help earn reputation. Thanks to word-of-mouth publicity by the beneficiaries of our good deeds, the word spreads farther and faster. At the grassroots level, both character and reputation get a boost from the same acts of selfless service.

  • Character dictates our actions while reputation determines our popularity

  • Character helps us stick to our values; reputation helps us avoid dangerous pitfalls

  • Character leaves a longer lasting impression on the lives we touch; reputation is much too fragile

  • Character creates legacy; reputation expands both our network and net worth

  • Character is food for the soul; reputation fills our bank account much faster than the soul

The preceding is a synopsis of the basic differences though I am sure the discerning readers can find a lot more.

I am looking forward to the valuable observations of much more intelligent readers to help me put right my outlook in the event we have any difference of opinion.

I love both bouquets and brickbats, no bar!

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