Thursday, October 11, 2007

Company of Good Repute

Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation, for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company.--George Washington 1732-1799

My friend and I were discussing the issue of keeping company with the wrong sort of people and consequently being judged by the company you keep. I remember struggling to explain this concept to my children as they grew into teenagers. The day came when one of them was arrested as he was with a bunch of teens that vandalized an abandoned house. Then he had a first hand lesson with the concept of "one for all and none for one". Suddenly his good buddies were no where to be found leaving him holding the bag.

I wonder what George Washington meant by men of good quality? I expect that he meant men who didn't cheat, or lie, or steal. Those are the simple answers. But I bet he also meant men who didn't gossip, or deliberately hurt others. Men of honor. That's an old fashioned word, isn't it? But when we don't behave honorably, we have a tough time facing ourselves in the mirror in the morning.

In this day and age of instant worldwide communications, it is so easy to allow our fingers to talk and send before we consider the consequences of our actions. So easy to hurt the innocent bystander and then watch in horror as our thoughtless words spread like a fungus across the electronic net that we all use. Once typed and sent we can't recall them. The words and damage cannot be undone.

My grandmother lived with us for a little while when I was a girl. The only thing I remember her actively stressing during that time was the old proverb, "If you can't say something good about someone, don't say anything at all." I must have had a strong inclination to gossip because that lesson was drummed indelibly in my head. Much, much later I learned this lesson by being on the other end. A neighbor ran around the neighborhood spreading a lie about my family. Someone else took the lie for truth and involved child protective services. An investigation ensued which involved my husband's job, my children's schools and our church.

The end result? Multiple apologies all around, but the damage was done. The reputation was shattered. And nothing can fix it. Nothing. The neighbor who began the entire mess never once acknowledged what she knew to be a lie. But one day she did casually comment that she didn't mean anything by it. That so dumbfounded me that I resolved to keep to myself. Why take the risk?

Of necessity in this day and age we must choose our friends with great care. Imagine the damage that could have occurred if that neighbor had access to the internet back then. Can you see it?

Of necessity, we must look at the company an individual keeps and judge them accordingly. It is a matter of self preservation. When loyalty and honor are in question then it's time to disengage and find new friends. Reputations are fragile. Once destroyed, they're nearly impossible to repair. The next time your associates begin to "talk trash" about someone, pull back and take another look. Ask yourself if these are the kind of people you want others to believe you are like. Because that's exactly what will happen.

A while back there was an expression, "You are what you eat." It works the same for associations in life. "You are your friends."


Please stop over at Kelly's blog at and meet her guest author, Mona Risk. And then scoot over and see just what Amarinda at has done to the Saga. And then have a good Friday.


  1. As always, an excellent blog, Mary Ellen. But I have to disagree on one small point. I don't believe 'you are your friends.'You choose to associate with people of a like mind or they graviate towards you. You support them and they support you. However the bottom line is you are yourself and can never be anyone else.

    That's it for deep thinking for me...unless someone wants to pour a glass of plonk and then I will be as existential as you like

  2. phut...still spitting...phut... feathers. PHUT! So Anny, what does it mean then when you eat your friends?

  3. There was a really good Law and Order SVU a couple of years back..I taped it and showed it to my oldest son, and it's helped him make better choices in friends! Wish I could find that tape, or at least the daughter needs to see it!