Recovering from a Damaged Reputation

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“Honesty? I feel like my name is mud. I know I made some mistakes in my past but I think I’ve improved. Yet I don’t think people see how I’ve changed. It feels like I am on a blacklist. I don’t think I’m ever given a fair chance. Why should I even bother?”

A reply from the Minister:

Does it mean something to you? Then you should bother. Do you think there is still fun out there? Then it is worth pursuing. You’ve changed for a reason.

You’ve made improvements. Don’t stop now. Keep going.

But only if you want to. It’s okay if you don’t. It’s ok if you do.

Questions like this are really complicated. Let’s look at it a little closer and consider a few things.

Personally, I would start with self-assessment.

Be honest with yourself. What was the mistake? What did you do? And how did you improve?

It happens. We all have moments we are not proud of and overcoming those can be hard.

Maybe we entered something that didn’t fit into a competition. Maybe we didn’t cite our sources well. Maybe we didn’t listen to constructive feedback when we asked for it. Maybe we used some poor language. Maybe we hurt someone’s feelings. Maybe we fought with a judge. Maybe we were not honest.

Really. It happens. I know. I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth any number of times.

But part of learning how to improve is being honest with yourself about what you did. Have you really changed? Have you asked for forgiveness? Have you shown contrition?

That’s always my first step.

After you’ve checked in with yourself, what next? Check in with people you trust. Talk to your friends and family. Listen.

Talk through what happened. Talk through what you think you’ve done to improve. Talk about where you think you made a mistake and how you want to do better in the future. Listen to what they have to say. Really listen. Perform another self-assessment and see if there is something more to work on.

That said they are your friends and family. They love you. They will do their best by you. It doesn’t mean that they are trained in giving good feedback. Keep in mind that they have a positive bias towards you and may not give you objective feedback. Still it is a good and safe space to start and gather support.

Once you’ve taken those steps then try something else. Talk to the people you think you’ve had trouble with in the past. Will that be hard to do? Maybe. But it will also be worth it.

Do you need to apologize? Then apologize. Do you need to learn more? Then learn more. Do you need a chance to show the new you? Then show off the new you.

Take you time. It is not a race. Work through at your own pace. Take care and go about it in a way that makes you feel good about your work and about you as a person. It’ll be worth it in the end.

Why do all this?

Because the arts and sciences are super fun. Because learning is fun. Because teaching is fun. Because it makes our organization a better place. Because it makes you a better person. Because it makes our members better people.

This is just what has worked for me. It may not work for you. And you may need to find your own path.

I wouldn’t be surprised if people also share their experiences on how things have worked for them. And people may share advice on other ways to go about it. There might be something there that clicks for you. Follow that.

Now. Did you read this and think, “It is not my problem. It is their problem.”

Okay. Maybe so. Maybe not.

You could be right. Sometimes it is their problem. Sometimes you’re right. Sometimes circumstances are unjust. It does happen.

And if that is the case then you’re right. It is their problem. You can’t control them or change them. But you can keep doing what you are doing and make the most fun despite them.

But some of the time? It’s not their problem. And in that case it is worth starting at the beginning with some honest self-reflection and personal understanding.

Most of time? It is not an either/or. It is not just you. It is not just then. In reality there is going to be issues on both sides. Find your balance and work through it in a way that makes you happy and proud of your own actions.

Still not convinced? Think the system is still out to get you?

It is not.

The system is built up to support people and encourage the organization to grow. The A&S Office does not have a blacklist. The Polling Orders do not have a blacklist. Even the Royal family does not have a blacklist.

Could individuals hold a grudge? Of course. People are people. Sometimes people hold grudges. I will not pretend otherwise. It can and does exist.

And that’s what the members of the SCA are. They are people. Laurels are people. The King and Queen are people. We’re all in the same boat of trying to be the best that we can be and sometimes we make mistakes or get in our own way. People are not always perfect. Even those of us trying to make the SCA a great place.

If that’s the case? So be it. Go about your business. Invest your time in your arts, your research, and the people who value your contributions to the Society. It is sometimes the best we can do.

To close I’ll let you know what I want to see.

I want to see everyone welcomed.

I want to see wonderful partnerships between entrants and judges. I want to see constructive criticism and active listening happening between people who respect and value each other. I want to see people caring and investing in artistic integrity. I want to see us being the best that we can be.

I want this to be our reputation throughout our organization.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.