Reputation is bizarre, if you think about it. Most people who “hear” a reputation have never actually been around the person. A few people witness someone doing something kind or cruel, and those few people spread that idea around. Reputation is a social phenomenon; one person cannot have a reputation by themselves, there needs to be others to give them one.
We do not own ourselves. Any individual could try to rob a bank and flee for the border, or dance around in a tutu on the table of a meeting, but we don’t. We are bound morally to follow the rules because there are other people. We are born into a social group and follow the customs because of both habit and belief that the law will provide order and justice. Even more than the law, we are bound by our friends and family. We cannot do certain things or else we will hurt those we love.
Whether we like it or not, humans are less like individuals and more like parts of a whole. We do many things we don’t want to do, solely because of our responsibilities to those around us. To think of that might be terrifying. Especially in certain cultures, the idea that we are without ‘true’ freedom is almost equivocal to death. However, paradoxically, the selflessness of responsibility often helps us. When we help others, they tend to help us too. When we do things we don’t want to do, it enables us to have more options to do what we do want to do.
Reputation may seem like a chain to some people. Indeed, we easily become over-obsessed with self image. Yet if your idea of freedom is just “doing whatever you want”, it will become a miserable, lonely existence. We need other people in order to function. We have to take responsibilities on because we
care and honor others. Don’t just do things out of habit, remember why you are doing it! Let us live intentionally so we don’t waste it unintentionally.