Reputation and Role Models:
R.W. Bro. N. Nagrodski, D. D. G. M. Ottawa 2
(the following paper, extracted from various on-line sources, was presented to Cobden Masonic Lodge on the occasion of the DDGM’s Official Visit, March 13, 2018 – and reprinted in the Beacon Blog from the Sunday Masonic Papers, April 1, 2018)
Good evening, Brethren.
To-night I’d like to talk about reputation and role models.
I think one thing that was stressed time and time again to young men of my generation (the Baby Boomers) was the importance of building a good reputation. We quickly came to realize that it’s hard work, in fact, a never-ending task, as your reputation is the public reflection of your character.
- It is what other people see and come to believe about you.
- It’s based on what you do.
- It’s based on what you say.
- It’s based on how you act.
- It’s based on how you treat other people, and
- how you make other people feel.
There are few things more important than reputation when it comes to our success, or our failure as a person. It can take years to build a good reputation and as we’ve recently seen in the media, it can take mere seconds to destroy it. It is something we should be very deliberate about building and very careful about protecting because it is the essence of who we are. And as we’ve also recently observed, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to rebuild a reputation after it has become tarnished or blackened.
Now, it’s likely that you’ve heard some people say: “I don’t deserve the reputation I have”; but sadly, it’s rarely ever true. You see, you probably do have a few people in your life who have a negative opinion of you. Everyone does. But your reputation is what most people, who know you, think of you. If you have a reputation of being opinionated and outspoken, chances are that you’re opinionated and outspoken. If you have a reputation for being undependable, probably you’re undependable. Some people might think that it’s unfair—but reputation is based on a very sound principle. It’s based on your past behavior and any employer or supervisor will tell you that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.
Occasionally, you’ll hear others say: “I’m going to say what I want to say and do what I want to do and I don’t really care what anybody thinks.” Probably, they think that it sounds very tough and defiant, but if you consider it for a moment, it’s actually a pretty selfish attitude to have. That outlook shows a complete lack of care or concern for other people – specifically those who care about them. Your reputation reflects on you, sure, but you don’t think it also reflects on your spouse? Your kids? Your family? Your community? Your employer? Your fraternity?
I’m sure that you’ve never heard anybody say, “she’s a real nice lady, but her husband is a real jerk.” And you’ve never heard somebody say, “I don’t know why he hangs around with that guy—he’d steal the shirt right off your back.” Of course you have. That’s because your actions affect everyone else around you, whether that’s your intention or not.
So, building a solid reputation is hard work, because it requires an amazing amount of self discipline; sadly something that seems to be in very short supply these days.
- It requires us to learn from our mistakes and not continue to repeat them—these are the hard lessons that will eventually mature into wisdom.
- It requires us to learn when it is important for us to speak and when it’s better to remain silent.
- It requires us to listen to others and to respect their point of view.
- It requires us to admit when we are wrong and to apologize when it’s appropriate.
- It requires us to be truthful and honest in all of our dealings.
- It requires us to do the things we say we’re going to do regardless of how difficult the task may be.
Unfortunately, men of good reputation and solid character used to be much more common, than they are today. Not only does our modern society notteach the necessary values and virtues anymore, but nowadays, concern about one’s reputation and character is seen as rather quaint, old-fashioned and definitely belonging to a long past era. Our society has become totally focused inward on ourselves and our own self-centered needs. It has been observed that, for the most part, we’ve now become a society of grown children, fighting and arguing on social media just like children used to fight and argue on the playground. Many young people of our society have never grown up and become real adults, because they haven’t had the proper role models to influence and guide their behaviour. And just like children, they don’t think about what they’re saying, and they don’t think about what their words and actions are saying about themselves.
But, to be fair, our society has been bombarded with decades of targeted media advertising that teaches: Happiness = stuff. Many people have been conditioned to believe that success is a measurement of what you own, not who you are. The size of your house, the clothes you wear and the type of car you drive are all indications of how ‘Successful’ you are. Their role models have been TV stars, movie stars, sports stars and rock-music stars; hardly ideal examples of proper behaviour and sound judgement. As our society slowly comes to realize that they’ve all been sold a false bill of goods and just how shallow and superficial a life-style many of them lead, is it any wonder that they lash out and behave like angry and selfish children?
So, what is to be done? What can be done to remedy such a distressing situation? I firmly believe that Freemasonry has a real and very important part to play in improving this troubling state of affairs, by quietly and simply providing the solid and well-grounded role models that our modern society seems to lack.
Now, I don’t suggest for a moment, that our Craft is about to cure all the ills of the world. Nor do I suggest that we are all haloed little saints, as we are only men who are frail and frequently stumble and go astray. In addition, I think that you’d quickly agree that jumping up, pounding on our chests and proclaiming to the world: “Look at me, I’m a role model! You must copy my behaviour in all things. You should do as I say and act like I act” is simply NOT the way Masons go about doing things. But, when you calmly consider the question: “who are fit and proper persons to be made Masons?”, if your sincere and thoughtful answer is: “Just and upright men, of mature age, sound judgement and strict morals”, I think that you’ve just found a fine group of role models.
However, even equipped with such commendable characteristics as these, I also think you’ll agree that being a role model is a difficult and daunting task. Many of us would shrink from such a responsibility, as we’d say: “what influence can I, a single individual, have on the great, bustling and uncaring world about me?” To which I’d reply: ”You’re absolutely right. You’re NOT going to have a huge and immediate impact on the world.” Being a role model is far more subtle than that. It’s more about quietly setting a fine example for others to follow, rather than demanding conformity to some set of rules or arbitrary standards.
I think that if each of us is willing to patiently cultivate and steadfastly practice those Masonic virtues and behaviours, that we all swore to do in our obligations, we will be successful in developing those solid characters and good reputations that are the essential components of the guiding role models that are so needed by our children, our families, our communities and sometimes even members of our own Fraternity.
Some of you might be sceptical about the major impact that I claim a positive role model can have on another’s life. But consider: you don’t have to look very hard to find that there are many success stories told by the gentlemen of our communities, describing how some worthwhile habit or honorable character trait, acquired from their role model, set them on a path that changed their lives forever and made them what they later became: Men of solid character; Men of good report; Men of unquestioned reputation. Surely being such an influential role model would be a worthwhile and lasting legacy that any of us would be proud to leave behind.
So, to conclude, I’ll refer you to a short passage from a well-known book that sums up what I’ve been trying to say in words that are more elegant and far more poetic than mine:
“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a basket, but on a candlestick; and it giveth forth light unto all that are in the house. Therefore, let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven”
Brethren, I thank you for the attention that you have given to my presentation and I wish you all a “Good Night & Safe Home”