One of my favorite Christmas gifts of my childhood came when I was 12 or 13 years-old. It was a plaque with a poem on it, given by my parents. Above the poem was “Hughes”. At the time, I wasn’t too fond of it, but as I grew older, I would look at the plaque, read the poem and be reminded of its truth. It’s author is anonymous, but it goes like this
You got it from your father
It was all he had to give
So it’s yours to use and cherish
For as long as you may live.
If you lose the watch he gave you,
It can always be replaced.
But a black mark on your name, son,
Can never be erased.
It was clean the day you took it
And a worthy name to bear,
When he got it from his father,
There was no dishonor there.
So make sure you guard it wisely–
After all is said and done,
You’ll be glad the name is spotless
When you give it to your son.
The Bible says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold,” (Proverbs 22:1, ESV). In our day and age, very little is thought about the honor that comes with one’s name. In the age of social media and 15 seconds (that’s about all the attention-span is these days) of fame, young men and women are dishonoring their own names. It doesn’t end with young men and women, middle-aged and older people are doing the same thing, just not as prevalent.
Over the last few weeks, we have been introduced (once again for those who may remember him from President Bush’s appointees) to a man named Brett Kavanaugh. Being confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Kavenaugh has been subjected to F.B.I. investigations, questioning under oath (both normal processes of confirmation), and now accusations of sexual misconduct by two women and possibly a third. He categorically denies the accusations. And from all accounts that I see, the accusations are sketchy at best. Even so, his name and reputation is being dragged through the mud. The only thing, and I mean the only thing, that is saving him at this moment is that he already had a clean name. With the exception of these possible three women, everyone who knows him personally refuses to believe these accusations and are standing by him. How do they know if they weren’t there? They don’t. They trust. They know the type of person he is. They know his name; that is to say, they know his reputation.
If these accusations were to prove true, one can only imagine the devastation that they would have upon Kavanaugh’s entire world. It would not only derail his confirmation, but most likely his marriage, his job, his entire being. His name would be ruined and all that goes along with it.
If however these allegations are proved false, it is the women’s names that should be sullied. And, though time will tell, all that goes with their names should be sullied as well. There are reasons that our nation has slander and libel laws. It is to protect the names, reputations, and lives of its citizens. To damage one’s own name is a horrible act, but to damage another’s name falsely, is criminal.
So what can we learn from this:
- A good name is to be sought more than riches. No amount of money or fame is worth losing your reputation. Be careful with what you post, whether they are words, pictures, videos, or opinions.
- The honor of your name is worth fighting for. If you have taken care to keep your name clean, and another seeks to smear it, you must fight. You must also recruit others to fight along side. Solomon wrote, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger and not your own lips,” (Proverbs 27:2, ESV).
- Be careful how you speak of others. “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body,” (Proverbs 26:22, ESV). Once the words are out, people devour them greedily and hungrily. There is no getting them back and there is no undoing what has been done.
So learn from this, whatever you believe about the allegations. Learn that a name is to be prized. It is a valuable commodity in life and it is unfortunate that truth has been forgotten or ignored. Yes, I still have that plaque. In fact, I gave it to my son.
*After having written this, I came across the letter that Judge Kavanaugh wrote to Senators Grassley and Feinstein. In it, he makes my point (specifically to my second point on fighting for your name):
The coordinated effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out. The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out. The last minute character assassination will not succeed.
I have devoted my career to serving the public and the cause of justice, and particularly to promoting the equality and dignity of women. Women from every phase of my life have come forward to attest to my character. I am grateful to them. I owe it to them, and to my family, to defend my integrity and my name. I look forward to answering questions from the Senate on Thursday.