Credibility Lost?

I have a co-worker who can be difficult to work with. He’s not difficult in a bad way, but difficult in a way that makes you work harder to be better. He is very detail-oriented and wants to be overprepared for any scenario. Last week before a product presentation, we were reviewing all the equipment and information to make sure we had anything that our new clients might need. I hurriedly tried to reassure him that everything would be ok, but he insisted we double-check every last detail.

“Scott, it’s only my credibility we are talking about here, and we both know credibility is like virginity: once it’s gone, it’s gone.” At the time, I dismissed his comment with a chuckle, but the more I think about it, the more brilliant it is.

Is this how we treat credibility? Should it be? Is credibility this fragile and important?

To my co-worker, credibility is everything, and I respect him for that. He knows that to be credible is to be trusted, to be sought out for advice and to be an asset to others: a solution. To lack credibility is to be ineffective, powerless and incapable. And to get it back is near impossible.

Later that same day, I saw the final proof of RISE’s new educational experience, Fraternal Truth, and it made me think about our credibility as a fraternity and sorority community. The idea is simple but compelling: tell the truth about what Greek organizations are doing, and let the evidence speak for itself. It’s not about our claims, the rhetoric, or stereotypes. Set aside the influence of media, movies or our past. The Fraternal Truth includes only the facts about what is actually happening in the present, to be interpreted as is.

So are Greek organizations credible? According to the evidence, it would be tough to argue that the answer is anything but a resounding “NO!” Under my co-worker’s definition, our innocence was lost long ago.

The truth we see out there in the world today is that Greek members are doing many great and positive things to foster brotherhood, serve our communities and prepare the leaders of our future. But we also physically, mentally and emotionally harm people as a precursor to membership. We host events where guests/members get hurt, killed and arrested. And we participate in other activities we may deem of a more negative nature.

Like virginity, it takes more than a balancing act between the good and bad to restore our credibility. A lot more, actually. Imagine you are a non-member, and that a Greek organization is asking you for something: Respect. Funding. Dedicated housing. A donation. Positive media coverage. More members. Survival. Anything. In exchange, they promise you leadership, betterment of the community, academic excellence and character. What evidence would it take to convince you that they have credibility in delivering on that promise?

So, where do we go from here? I am in a generous mood. Starting right now, you can have born-again credibility. In order to retain it, your actions - your truth - must live up to that the promise you made. Constantly. Without fail.

Because once it’s gone, it’s gone.