"The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear." - Socrates
I spoke with a woman on the phone the other day who confided in me that she is getting a divorce. After years of putting up with her husband's many affairs, she has had enough. She wants more. She deserves more. She is ready to break the cycle. For years she has discovered his infidelities, only to have him beg for forgiveness, and for her to give it. She realized that he isn't going to change, and that he doesn't intend to change. It's a heart-breaking cycle. Cheat. Get caught. Apologize and ask for forgiveness. Be shown grace and forgiveness. Pause and repeat.
Word is starting to get out in her community that they are getting divorced. Of course, people want to know why. Actually, it's nobody's business, but it's also human nature to be curious. Word has started to spread that he had an affair and that she found out about it. She hasn't put it on social media. She didn't take an ad out in the paper. She didn't announce it in the conference room at work. Nonetheless, word has gotten out, and information like this tends to spread like wildfire. This guy is apparently really well-known and well-liked in their community. He coaches lacrosse and soccer. He is an elder in the church. He grew up in the area and has a lot of friends. He's sociable and good-looking -- apparently, quite a charmer. This is like adding fuel to said wildfire!
He's also mad. When he discovered that word had gotten out about his affair (and pending divorce), he berated his wife for ruining his reputation. "How dare you tell people that I had an affair," he ranted, "I have a reputation to uphold!" He continued, "I can't believe you are telling people. This is embarrassing." Um... yes. Yes it is. The truth hurts!
But, if you are ashamed and embarrassed by this revelation, perhaps you should have thought of these ramifications before you participated in the behavior about which you are now ashamed! The hypocrisy of this can't be overlooked! How dare SHE ruin HIS reputation? She didn't ruin it; he had already taken care of that.
Socrates was a wise man. This guy may benefitted from doing some reflecting on Socrates' quote shown above. If this guy wants to have (and to maintain) a good reputation, then he needs to live, breath and act exactly as he wishes to appear. If he wants to be the Godly man, the great husband, the wonderful father, the community leader, and the sought-after coach, then he needs to endeavor to talk the talk and walk the walk in all of those elements of his life. If he doesn't want to be "that guy" who had an affair, then don't have the affair! Am I oversimplifying this?
Socrates was around from 469 BC - 399 BC. That's a long time ago. Perhaps a more contemporary thinker can help put it into a modern-day perspective. Things have changed a lot in the world since then, right? Not really.
Here's what Wayne Dyer, world-renowned self-help author and motivational speaker, has to say on the same topic: "Your reputation is in the hands of others. That's what the reputation is. You can't control that. The only thing you can control is your character."
Hmm... perhaps if this guy focused more on controlling his character (and controlling some other parts of his anatomy as well -- sorry, I couldn't resist) then perhaps he wouldn't have to worry so much about his reputation.
I'm really not a fan of any man or woman who has an extra-marital affair and cheats on his or her spouse. It's the ultimate form of betrayal. But, I will say, there are many people who make this mistake, then own it, accept it, and make it a part of their story. They realize it is a part of the character they are creating for themselves, and part of the reputation that will now follow them. I have some level of respect for these people -- at least they aren't blaming someone else for ruining their reputation, but rather are taking accountability for their actions.
What do you think? Should this guy blame his wife for ruining his reputation?