Character versus reputation
Let us play a game of Would You Rather. Would you rather run fast or fly slow? Would you rather be rich or famous? I am aware of, these are hard questions. Along with the sport is alluring for that reason. Whether we perform it to pass the time away during a worldwide pandemic or so that we may get familiarized with co-workers via video conference, the answers can give us a sneak peek into our imaginations and values.
The sport gets harder when we enter the domain. Consider this one. Would you rather have reputation or character? This question is particularly intriguing and difficult because it seems to be asking us to pick between two things which are in tension: what is what seems; what I know vs. what others reevaluate; what’s permanent vs. what is temporary; and what is substantial vs. what is utopian. Technically, there are no wrong answers in this sport. However, what do our answers tell us about ourselves? And why should we care?
While playing the game, you might reply,”I would rather have the reputation.” And it is because what people think about you matters. This is what a former gangster hauled into a reformed Malcolm X at a scene from Spike Lee’s 1992 cinematic narrative of the activist. In his youth, Malcolm ran numbers to get a gangster named Archie. The 1 time he won and played, there were concerns that he lied about putting his winning number. In order for the gangster to protect his standing, he and his crew went after Malcolm, eventually running him from Harlem.
Him decades later. Of course, this answer works nicely for Archie. One of the most essential things because of his profession is your understanding of others. He needs people to view him as tough, violent, and unkind. Who he really is at his heart is not as important as to how the underworld — full of enemies, hustlers, and possible traitors — visit him. And he works hard at shaping it; even if it requires killing one of his own.
To make sure, the gangster’s lifestyle is not like other occupations. However, as soon as we believe standing is more important than personality, we are not really that different from the gangster. A social media influencer whose life is all about getting likes and having individuals perceive her as a certain type of individual, in the negligence of credibility, is playing the game the exact same way. A person who morally grandstands online — advertising certain virtues without being virtuous himself — is playing the same game. If he puts more time in getting the internet to think he’s’woke’ and much less time on ensuring he really lives a conscious and compassionate lifestyle, he is playing with Archie’s game. But it does not have to be this way. While standing is required for the gangster, it is not necessarily demanded of the others. The social media influencer and internet activist have other options. In contrast, you might choose character over standing. “Why should I care what people think about me?” This is the way Sherlock Holmes reacts to John Watson in an episode of the second season of BBC’s Sherlock. Sherlock knows he’s innocent as well as brilliant. So he is perplexed when Watson states,”I don’t need the world believing you’re… a fraud” We can comprehend Watson’s answer. Sherlock is a detective. His job is all about bringing gangsters like Archie and other offenders to justice by resolving the hardest of crimes. His job demands faith from his clients (and the public) that he’s doing it professionally and honestly. If this hope is missing, he cannot perform his job. Nobody would employ him.
The truth is, standing has money in our planet. We support companies based on their own reputations. People are given chances based on their reputations. (When was the last time you hired somebody who had bad recommendation letters?) Reputation also creates and sustains friendships and networks. We befriend and stay friends with other people partly due to how others see them. Yes, personality matters. But standing matters also.
The problem occurs when we try for this reputational currency in a way that morally bankrupt us. When reputation becomes that matters, personality falls from the picture. We spend all our time looking more honest than we actually are — in the price of honesty . We spend our time looking happy online, and less time on working on our mental health when our phone batteries are dead.
On the flip side, this reputational money doesn’t always pay us exactly what we deserve. So even when we play the match by replying”I’ll rather have my character match my standing,” this doesn’t always work. Our reputations do not always match our characters. People can believe false things about people.
In a foreshadowing of types, Watson warns Sherlock — at the beginning of the incident — that the newspapers will turn on him and advises him to be careful. “It disturbs you… what folks say… about me?” Sherlock asks. Watson repeats,”Just stay out of the newspapers.” His caution is educational: there appears to be some thing about reputation that is out of our hands. While we’ve got a hand in shaping our character, we have less control over the shaping of our reputations. Folks can spread lies in us. Others might think those lies. Some will misinterpret out actions. While working on our character appears to be within our control, it’s difficult to shape or alter what people think of us. It is nearly impossible for our reputations to match our personalities.
Perhaps concerns about reputation reveal something about our relationship with our own personality. By way of instance, when it appears the Moriarty’s plan is working, Sherlock turns to Watson and says,”You are worried they are right about me. That is why you’re so angry. You can not even entertain the possibility that they might be proper. You are scared that you have been taken in also.” For Sherlock, it seems that Watson’s concern about his reputation is rooted in a stress that Sherlock’s reputation will reveal something about Watson’s own personality. If folks are correct in their perceptions of Sherlock, does this imply that Watson is naïve or even dishonest himself? Perhaps our worry about what people think people points to some similar fragility about who we take ourselves to be. Could it reveal a weakness in or some thing missing from our character? Could people’s perceptions be accurate mirrors into who we actually are?
There are no incorrect answers to this Would You Rather game. As much as this version of the game seeks our replies, supporting them lie a greater treasure: they tell us what we value, that we are, and also what we can and cannot escape. They also tell us where our efforts should proceed, why we should fix our expectations, and also why all this things. In times when it appears that everybody is seeing, and the truth is going out of style, we may just have to.