One of the city’s councilwomen then stood, saying: Speak to us about reputation.
The next child answered, saying:
There are those of you who say that what others think of you matters not one iota. Others, however, say that your reputation is the only thing that matters.
These two statements are the opposite falsities at the two extremes between which lies the truth.
To know yourself, and live in unflinching confidence and surety, is to be willing to be hated and feared by all. But if you are truly yourself, indeed you will not be hated and feared by all. It is only important that you are prepared for it to be so, that you face the world with an uncompromising authenticity.
Most of you are afraid of your reputation, afraid of what others think about you. You are afraid that what they think is true.
We assure you that what they think is indeed true.
Your reputation is a thermometer by which you may read your own strengths and weaknesses. Everything that is said about you is true of you in some way. These things are not true in the way that slanderers or wide-eyed admirers may think, but they are true in small ways which might be known only to you.
So when you are afraid of your reputation, seek to know it. Foster a curiosity about what others think about you, not so you can change their minds, for knowing your reputation does not change it, but so you can learn about yourself what otherwise would have remained hidden.
You can only change your reputation by changing yourself. When you learn what your reputation is, accept it. Do not try to change the minds of others with words because words that are intended to convince are weak. If you want to change the minds of others, then you must learn what you want your reputation to be, and then become that.