“Just because you didn’t put a name to something does not mean it’s not there.” — Jodi Picoult

When I meet people, it is often revealed early in the conversation that I am a middle school teacher. This revelation often carries with it a stunned look from those I meet and it then morphs into a soft, Oh, you poor thing, look. 

Experience has granted me the ability to identify this daze and I often follow up with, “It’s never boring!” This is the truth.

Photo by Artificial Photography on Unsplash

One reason I have succeeded as a middle school teacher is, I have perfected the art of catching my students off guard. I discovered if you can do that, it helps avert other less-desirable things this age group perpetrates. 

An example of this was the year several of my female fashion police took it upon themselves to monitor my clothing choices. In the manner only middle school girls can do, they suggested I needed to keep up with the trends and buy clothes that have the popular logos on them. 

I smiled and nodded my head in agreement while my brain was in overdrive. Over the next several days, I wore the same clothes I always did but with one small change, I added the trendy logos myself. 

Imagine the horror on my girls’ faces as they saw each piece of my clothing with the logos made of masking tape. They were quick to ask if I had gone anywhere else looking like this. Since then, my students have never made suggestions for my wardrobe.

Though the changes I made on my clothing brought lots of laughter, I followed up with a brief lesson on how we can cheapen the name of a product or a person. 

We discussed why having a good name and reputation is important and several years later, I have bumped into former students and they reminisced on my masking tape labels and the lesson they learned. A good name and reputation is important.

The Name Game

Long before modern science and gender reveal parties, soon-to-be mothers and fathers did not know if they would parent a boy or a girl. Even with this knowledge today, most people use care and consideration in choosing a suitable name for their baby.

Photo by Benji Aird on Unsplash

Sometimes parents choose a name to honor someone they respect and admire. This could be a family member or someone in the world whose actions and reputation they wish to honor. 

Others choose names they like the sound of when coupled with the baby’s last name. 

Regardless of the motivation, a person’s name is important and as the individual matures, his or her name creates a reputation.

Name That Reputation

Where I live, many of the locals have strong opinions of which hospital they will go for elective and non-life-threatening procedures. Though our hospitals are spread 60 or more miles apart, each has made a name for itself and have distinct reputations.

Similarly, our veterinarians, dentists, hair stylists and more have reputations these individuals work hard to keep positive. A person’s or organization’s reputation can determine success or ruin and a wise person or group keeps this in mind every day.

The Responsibilities of a Good Name and Reputation

Once a person or organization has developed a good name and reputation, there are three other considerations and responsibilities associated with it.

1. Our words and actions reflect on our families and/or the vocation we represent.

Like it or not, what we say and do reflects on those associated with us. The truth of this statement hit me hard while reading Sue Klebold’s memoir, A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, concerning her son’s horrific actions at Columbine High School in April 1999. 

Sue described her grief and shame after her son, Dylan, had killed and/or traumatized so many at his school. His horrific actions coated the hearts of people around the world with grief, trauma, anger and more. 

Among many heart-wrenching experiences, Ms. Klebold described how many people treated her with disdain because of the actions of her son, (and as Sue says many times in the book, she didn’t blame them.) 

We need to be mindful that our actions reflect on those we love and associate with.

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This is also true if we call ourselves Christians and then make the conscious decision to act in direct contradiction to God’s word. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes this point when comparing God’s followers to fruit trees. 

In Matthew 7:16 (KJV) He said, “Ye shall know them by their fruits,” meaning, the actions of His followers will testify to what sort of person they are. These things shout to us the need to consider daily the impact our words and actions have on others.

2. We need to guard the trust that our good name and reputation has built.

Another consideration of having a good name is people will place their trust in us. We need to guard this valuable commodity and not take advantage of others because of it.

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There are diabolical examples in history where someone who had built a foundation of trust and then uses it to destroy others. An example of this is the Jonestown massacre in 1978. 

Jim Jones used the trust of hundreds of people to build his ego and reputation only to destroy over 900, including about 300 children. A good name carries responsibilities.

Again, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives the same warning about “prophets” who use the trust of others for their own purposes. Matthew 7:15 (NIV) “Watch out for false prophets. 

They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Though Jesus directs this statement at those who trust others, it is clear He condemns those who use the trust they have established with others for their own purposes.

3. A good name is easy to destroy.

We need to protect a good name because it’s fragile. We wouldn’t put a toddler in a room full of breakables and we need to see our good names in the same way. A person can destroy a good name much easier than it was to build it.

Because a good name takes diligence, it is valuable. Proverbs 22: (NIV) says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

A wise person knows the value of a good name and guards it. It only takes one bad decision or thoughtless statement to destroy a lifetime of building a good reputation. Your good name is easy to destroy.

Jodi Picoult’s statement, “Just because you didn’t put a name to something did not mean it wasn’t there,” is worth careful consideration.

Susan Grant has taught middle and high school students for more than 30 years. She is a member of the National Writing Project and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She has won writing competitions and published pieces of non-fiction, fiction and essays in publications including, Longridge Review, Chattanooga Writers’ Guild and the Bangor Daily News. Susan’s writing can be found at soulfitness101.com
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Susan Grant has taught middle and high school students for more than 30 years. She is a member of the National Writing Project and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She has won writing competitions and published pieces of non-fiction, fiction and essays in publications including, Longridge Review, Chattanooga Writers’ Guild and the Bangor Daily News. Susan’s writing can be found at soulfitness101.com

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