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Credit and Credibility

Credit and Credibility

| May 31, 2019

I started working for a “real employer” when I was in high-school.  I spent my summers and a few nights a week working at an audio/video store in the mall.  It was an almost surreal experience, getting a regular paycheck at sixteen and having actual money to spend on gas, meals, movies and the like.  When I turned 18 I got my first credit card offer.  I could say that first credit experience ended up being a disaster (it was), but like many “learning opportunities”, it was a part of the hard process of learning how life really works.

What I remember most were the phone calls from the credit card company after I had exceeded my massive $500 limit.  I remember telling them I would make everything right on the next payment.  Oddly enough, when it came time to follow through on my word, I always seemed to be out of money.  This started a less-than-virtuous cycle – to the point that I would tense up when the phone rang.  The nice lady on the phone informed me that if I didn’t follow though, my credit rating was at risk.  While that was a true statement, something much more valuable precariously hung in the balance.

Over thirty years later, I sometimes find the world a frustrating place to navigate.  See if any of these statements raise your blood pressure, like they do mine:

  • No, I don’t think I ever got your message, we’ve been having some issues with our voicemail.
  • Do you have the name of the person who told you that?
  • I asked my people to get that done, they must have dropped the ball.
  • Yes, that’s a great question… let me transfer you to someone else.
  • I know I said we would be done in two weeks, but…(add favorite excuse)

I think we may live in culture today that values it’s personal credit score far more than its credibility.

These frustrations are not limited to work.  We experience the same disappointments in our own governments, police departments, corporations, media, schools, and yes… occasionally in our own homes.  In 2013 CBS News published THIS article showing how our trust in our fellow citizens has significantly diminished over the last thirty years, and why it matters.  THIS article from The Atlantic shows how this distrust has spread to media, government, and institutions.

We want our children to be ready to compete in the world.  We want to equip them with all of the tools necessary to thrive and succeed.  How important is their personal credibility.  Take a moment and think about a few famous individuals who lost their place at the top.  How many of those tragic stories involve credibility.  Most of them?  All of them?  Have you made a solid commitment to raising children with bullet-proof credibility?  The kind of people that own up to mistakes.  The kind that take responsibility, and see things though.  I believe people of character are not developed naturally and without effort.  It takes commitment, work, and a plan.

I eventually made things right with the credit card company.  What finally motivated me to change my behavior was not the high compounding interest rate.  It was my mother’s disappointment in my character.  I had been taught to be better.  Both by her and my other family and community around me.  What reversed my course on this occasion was a well-established, internal expectation of being a person of my word.  Credibility matters.