It’s not because it’s a foolish tactic, even though it’s a very foolish tactic.
It’s not because a person isn’t actually a good person, even though he isn’t actually a good person.
It’s much, much simpler than that.
It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.
A good reputation is hard to build and easy to lose. Once lost it is even more difficult to rebuild. It can be done, but there are certain things that must be done. They are not optional.
Responsibility – if you want your good name back, you must take full ownership of your bad acts. No blaming others, no quibbles, no arguments. “I robbed that bank.”
Apology – any effort at rehabilitating a reputation is incomplete and useless without this. A sincere apology has four parts: admission of wrongdoing, recognition of the repercussions, a request for forgiveness and acceptance of responsibility.
A. “I robbed that bank.”
B. “I know it was wrong to rob that bank.”
C. “Please forgive me for robbing that bank.”
D. “I know I should go to jail for robbing that bank.”
Restitution – if you can’t or won’t accept responsibility for things you have done, if you can’t or won’t apologize and seek forgiveness for what you have done, then making restitution is certain to be a bridge too far. If you can’t at least make an effort to pay for or to undo the damage you’ve inflicted, you’re lost.
What I find interesting is the way that people generally fall on either side of a line dividing those who understand and accept these concepts are fact, and those who reject them. And once divided, they tend to self-reinforce.
People will expend enormous energy defending bad people, and then wonder why others think they are also bad people. They will routinely refuse to consider that they have done something wrong, preferring instead to think that their reputations have been ruined by others reminding people of the truth about them.
These people would be worthy of pity if they were not so clearly misguided.