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DAVIS: Are reputations earned?

May 16, 2011

Reputations are curious things. Everyone has one, even if they don’t want one. So, if you don’t think you have a reputation, how do you go about getting one? Good question. The problem with reputations is that they are earned in more than one way. Some ways are good but some are bad.
Let’s take a look at earning a reputation the bad way first. It has been said that if you repeat a lie often enough, people believe it to be a fact. Through gossip and channels such as “I heard from a friend who goes shopping with my neighbor’s step-sister’s lawyer’s secretary.” By the time word gets passed along down the stream of emails, text messages and cupped ears it bears little resemblance to the original statement. Therein resides the problem. We all played the “Telephone Game” as youngsters and without exception the original message was distorted and mangled beyond recognition. Imagine playing that same child’s game with an off-hand comment made about someone in our community. What might happen? The repeater fish in the stream would pass the nugget along with ease and with impunity. After all, it’s just gossip. It doesn’t mean a thing.
But what needs to be remembered is that once a statement meets the air, it can’t be put back. Any idea placed into someone else’s brain remains there and often time poisons the owner. And it is this very poison that creates the reputation of the one infected. It blurs the vision. It skews the facts. It casts a doubting shadow on all things told. It creates suspicion and dilutes trust. As one grows, the other shrinks. Thankfully, it works both ways.
At this moment in time, our county and communities find the poison has infected areas in which it need not be. Reasonable people are making assumptions and stating them as fact in the absence of disclosure. I leave it to you to look around and see evidence of it around you. We must not depend upon others to tell us what is happening. We must inform ourselves with facts; not innuendo, hearsay or rumor. Nothing comes of them. They spread the poison and before too long they are taken as fact.
So what’s a person to do? How do we know a fact from rumor? Ask the source. Question the fish in the stream that is passing the information along to you if this fish is not the person of which the “information” is directed.
Trust your source. If you don’t, question and question boldly. Ask for facts, proof and a direct source for the information. Facts stand on their own. Rumors have to be propped up and once they fall, we must do what we can to pull that rumor from the air to make room for the fact it displaced.
No one could argue with the directive “If you want to know what I think, just ask me.”
The sad by-product of it all is that we listen to the bad reputations and are too eager to believe. We are often swayed and when I say we all are, I include myself in the mix. But this has to change for this county and community to survive into a future we need to shape now!
And here is where the good reputation is earned. I fully believe that the smallest number of people in our county create the greatest amount of noise. I heard someone say the other day that it is much, much easier to get people to be against something than it is to move them toward progress in a positive manner. Truer words have not been said. That’s not a rumor, it’s a fact.
However, it need not be that way. The other 99% of the people in the county don’t seem to realize the power they have to shape the reputation our beautiful part of the state has earned. Or has it.
Is it earned or is it passed along down the stream from fish to fish because of what the lead fishes in the water have told those following along behind? Do you get fired up about something someone said about so-and-so? Does it cause you to take action based upon the stream you are listening to? It’s a hard thing to contemplate. And that’s the challenge. Think about it long and hard. Do you want to be a fish stuck in the water? Or do you want to jump out and see the bigger picture? I know which one I choose. Do you?

The Saline Courier Editor-in-chief Brent Davis is a lifelong resident of Benton and Saline County. The Courier has been part of his life for as long as he can remember. He is a graduate of Benton High School. His column appears twice a week: on Fridays on Page 3 of The Saline Courier and on www.bentoncourier.com, and on the Opinion Page in Sunday’s edition of The Saline Courier. 
davisb@flash.net

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