The word reputation gets tossed about quite frequently in Heathen circles, and for good reason. As a prestige culture, reputation matters more than it does to your average American. A person’s reputation, or lack thereof, is going to influence your ability to move in Heathen circles, and how you will be received. It’s one of the most basic currencies we have.
What is reputation? The simplest definition is how others perceive you. The key in reputation is the opinion of others that comes from your perceived thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Your reputation may not reflect your actual beliefs, thoughts, or intentions behind your actions. It is based solely on how others see you and your life. Actions are the foundation of reputation. Thoughts and values are not often something you express on a constant and widespread basis, so what you do forms most of the opinion others have of you. Let’s use Vince the Viking as an example.
Vince loves to go to his local pubmoot, but he is always twenty to thirty minutes late. You can almost set your watch by it. Ingrid gets frustrated because Vince is never on time. She starts telling Vince that the event is starting 30 minutes earlier than the actual start time. She also won’t allow Vince to host the event when she goes on vacation, because she is afraid he won’t be there.
There is a very logical excuse for Vince being late. His wife gets off work half an hour before the event, and because their second car has broken down, Vince must take his wife home before he can come. However, Vince has never expressed to anyone at the event that he is late due to transportation issues. If Ingrid had known, she would have offered to start the event 30 minutes later or offered to pick Vince up so he can let his wife use the car, but since Vince never communicated the issue, his reputation is bad when it comes to punctuality.
Reputation can be built even if you never actually interact with someone. What you post online on social media is a huge source of reputation. Businesses are now checking potential employee’s social media before hiring them. My husband is a cantankerous person online. However, face to face, he would never have the same arguments he does on Facebook. However, to someone who has never met him and shared a meal or a game, he’s a jerk if you look only at his interactions on Facebook.
The final source of reputation I am going to address is who you know. If I know you are friends with someone I respect, that speaks to your reputation. My kindred brother is a big-name Heathen author. I can often get into spaces that might not be accessible to me based on his reputation. It opens doors for interviews and other opportunities to network that my name alone never could.
Reputation matters, and it matters even more in the Heathen community. The Havamal speaks that the only thing that matters after one dies is their reputation.
At home shall a man be merry
And cheerful to his guests,
Cautious about himself,
Of good memory and ready speech,
If he wants to be very wise;
A good man is often talked of;
A great fool is he called
Who little can tell;
That is the mark of a fool.
Geirrid settled in Borgardal, inside Alpta fjord. She caused her house to be built across the high road so that all were obliged to ride through it. A table set with food, which was given to every one who wanted it, always stood ready. Owing to this she was looked on as a high-minded woman.
~ Eyrbrygga Saga
What kind of reputation should we be cultivating? Just from the above quotes, we can glean a few characteristics that make up what would have been a good person to the Arch Heathens. Those include hospitable, intelligent, cautious, wise, and generous. These are all traits that I strive to embody in my life. I often fall short, but reputation is rarely static. It can be changed through a concerted effort.
Making the change sounds simple on the surface, but is difficult because it involves making significant changes to behavior over time. There are three basic steps. The first is to make a significant change in your behavior. The second is to demonstrate that change to people who matter, and the final is recognizing building or changing reputation takes time. Changing behaviors and beliefs is a difficult process. I have found that I needed outside, professional help to change some of my behaviors.
I want my reputation legacy to be of someone who is generous, wise, and intelligent. What do you want your legacy to be?