Who amongst us doesn’t fall short on the scales of personal makeup, that which shapes us on the inside? Those intangibles judged on an individual’s character-scorecard? We are — every one of us — flawed, so the obvious answer is that none of us measure up 100% of the time.
Ahhh … but when someone clearly and consistently demonstrates “vision, integrity, courage, understanding, the power of articulation, and profundity of character” (Dwight Eisenhower), there is hope. And where there is hope, there opens at least the possibility of a path that leads to something positive. Hope for a better future goes hand-in-hand with placing trust in yourself to make good choices in life. That things will get better.
But without honor … without integrity … without character … everything else falls away. With so many things that genuinely count in this world in disarray, at painfully low points and critical crossroads, you can bet a huckleberry to a persimmon that, were we capable of taking an earnest look into the hearts of too many men and women, the EKG would confirm motivation moving in questionable, self-serving directions.
Everything Rests Back On Integrity
Harry Emerson Fosdick, who Martin Luther King Jr. noted was “the greatest preacher of this century,” fairly nailed this premise: “With many overhead schemes for the world’s salvation, everything rests back on integrity and the driving power in personal character.”
Think about the characteristics and attributes of the persons most admired or influential in your life. This might be your dad. Your mom. Your grandfather. Your grandmother. Your wife. Your husband. Your brother or sister. Your best friend. Perhaps your best friend’s parents. A coach. A boss. A pastor. A teacher. If you have served our country (thanks … ), it might be your commanding officer or bunkmate. Stop and think about those traits that make this individual or these persons come to mind straight away. Sincerely reflect on why they’re close to your heart … and always will be.
One’s character, the type of person you are, trumps everything. I suspect that your most influential and important persons are painted with vibrant brushstrokes such as Grateful. Honest. Humble. Compassionate. Loyal. Great listener. Respectful to others. Trustworthy. High morals. Someone who demonstrates time and again the power to make someone happy and teach life’s proper lessons. Someone who seemingly always captures the admiration of intelligent people and the affection of children and earns the respect of honest critics. An advocate and empowerer of all peoples and choices. Fair. Just. Unbiased. Empathic. Decent. Someone who believes with every fiber of their being that an investment in knowledge and hard work always pays the best interest. A person who possesses basic goodness, embraces truth, and brings people together.
I hope your personal cogitating generated in your mind’s eye a few extraordinary individuals, a few smiles from your core, and perhaps even, as we call it in my family, a few “little tears” that well up alongside of good memories of good people.
Character does count and always will. It doesn’t live in the land of nuance. Building character is a lifelong process, and we know it when we see it. It defines who we are and how we behave in all matters and circumstances. Character in leadership opens doors for healing, and healing offers a promise of a better tomorrow. Of hope. Conversely, a lack of character erodes confidence, disheartens the whole and the soul, and is ultimately untenable.
All Positive Roads
All positive roads lead to character. It’s what you want in people most important to you — friends, family, leaders. It’s a path that allows us — as individuals, business leaders, a nation — to come together despite differences. Character inspires and facilitates fighting for a cause larger than oneself.
When tough choices need to be made, choose character. There is no investment you can make that will pay you and society so well. Those who demonstrate character at virtually every turn should be those trusted with important matters, tackling and overcoming obstacles that we face in our families, our communities, our country, and our world — and providing hope.