Having a good name
by Jim Ruth, Bradley County Sheriff
Apr 13, 2014 | 656 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print

“Associate with the noblest people you can find; read the best books; live with the mighty. But learn to be happy alone. Rely upon your own energies, and so not wait for, or depend on other people.”

— Professor Thomas Davidson

My parents’ generation put a lot of stock in having a good name. Others judged you by the company you keep. Bad company not only corrupts but robs you of your good name. It matters not whether a family is rich or poor, people are known by their actions, where an individual’s character is on display for all to see.

Early on, kids manifest their developing character. We can all remember way back in elementary school the kid who would steal, lie and cheat. When someone’s lunch money was taken from his desk and it was reported to the teacher, the whole class would know who was the prime suspect. And the class was most often right. The wrong-doer was not always from a poor, deprived family. One fellow who was so poor that he couldn’t ever pay attention, said that when something was stolen in class and the teacher began to question the students, he always felt guilty. Although he was taught a strict set of values and adhered to them, he reflected that the fact he was so poor and obviously deprived, the other kids would suspect him.

Some kids were known throughout all their school years to be dishonest. They always had some fanciful tale or embellished and exaggerated things to say about themselves or their family you could never quite believe. That same character flaw went with them into adulthood.

As you follow the lives of these individuals (I am old enough to do so!), you will see how some have become criminals. Others have sharpened their manipulative abilities and appear to be succeeding in their chosen career paths. I am also glad to say other fledgling little cheaters have turned their lives around to become upstanding adults who help to make a better quality of life for others.

It is important to me that our deputies have this “good name” with the people they serve. A reputation takes a lifetime in the making. Some of my heroes are everyday folks who lived out their lives in front of me on a daily basis. I am not talking about perfect people or self-righteous people. I am talking about individuals who knew their own human frailties but were always striving for basic honesty, along with consistency.

My best example of “salt of the earth” are people who stuck with their principles but were quick to apologize and make amends when they inadvertently wronged another person. Some were so ethical and trustworthy they would not take the change left by someone else in a vending machine or pay phone. It did not belong to them and they would not take it.

I know this kind of thinking is outdated and old-fashioned. As I mentioned months ago, some people now applaud themselves as being clever when they “best” people by defrauding them on a deal.

I speak of these things to remind our folks that we must stand individually and together to stem the tide that compromises the very strength of a well-functioning society.

No, I am not setting myself up as the ethical standard-bearer everyone should follow. I am saying that I am a fellow traveler and a student of history who wants the best for all of us.

I know first hand the importance of having these everyday people with sterling characters traveling with us. They always leave a great legacy for the rest of us to seek and follow. Look back on your own life and you will remember the impact these great characters made on you.

We all have an equal opportunity to build a good name. For those whose name is somewhat sullied, you too can begin to rehabilitate your name. Those who follow will think well of you and your contributions to our quality of life.

Thanks for reading.