We value personality over character – the opposite of how it used to be back when George Washington was “drafted” into being president of the United States.
We certainly are living in some amazing times. This presidential election cycle, with its comedy-drama-like episodes, is something right out of a Hollywood screenwriters brain-storming session where even the most bizarre idea is considered feasible. It doesn’t matter what your personal politics happen to be – left, right, liberal, conservative or somewhere in between – this is just plain wacky.
Maybe some of that has to do with living in a world where we determine the value of people based on their personality, not their character. The more charming, splashy, exciting and dynamic, the higher they rate. In fact, I bet if you asked the average person on the street the difference between good character and good personality, they’d have a hard explaining the difference.
So what is the difference? I think good character consists of traits like honesty, responsibility, generosity, compassion, courage, empathy, humility. What we call a good personality consists of things like having a good sense of humor, being friendly, talkative, outgoing and exciting.
Character and personality aren’t mutually exclusive, but valuing personality over character has resulted in a world where gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur is seen as more intriguing than soft-spoken, failed presidential candidate Ben Carson. In fact, writing this I’m having a hard time coming up with examples of people in the public eye who gained their position in our society because they embodied “good character.” When was the last time someone “got ahead” because they were honest and humble?
What makes it even harder is that these good character types are often too unpretentious to invest time in self-promotion. They’re too busy helping drunks get sober, teaching kids, saving an endangered species, working at an animal shelter and being involved in other service jobs that, by their very nature, do not put them on the fast track to fame and fortune. In fact those “good character” types tend to shun publicity – unless it will help their cause. The opposite is true for those who display good character only to the degree necessary to enhance their social position.
George Washington, our first president, was selected and then reluctantly accepted the position because of his commitment to be of service to his country. It’s said that he believed that the only person qualified to be president was someone who didn’t want the job – which made him the perfect candidate. I did a little research and found this commentary by Thomas Jefferson upon Washington’s death:
“Perhaps the strongest feature in his character was prudence, never acting until every circumstance, every consideration, was maturely weighed; refraining if he saw doubt, but, when once decided, going through his purpose, whatever obstacles he opposed. His integrity was the most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known…. He was, indeed, in every sense of the word, a wise, a good and a great man … On the whole, his character was, in its mass, perfect … it may truly be said, that never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a man great…”
Historians consider Washington one of the greatest leaders this country ever had. Too bad if he were around today, he wouldn’t stand a chance of being elected. So I guess he was right – the only person qualified to be president is someone who doesn’t want the job! Maybe that’s why, out of all the great possibilities that surely must be out there, we’re left with so few to choose from.
Copyright © Kim Calvert/2016 Singular Communications, LLC.
Kim Calvert is the editor of Singular magazine and the founder of the SingularCity social networking community. An outspoken champion of people who are living their lives as a “me” instead of a “we,” Kim oversees the creative direction and editorial content of the magazine and online social networking community. She secures contributors and is responsible for maintaining the fun, upbeat, inspirational and often-humorous tone of Singular, a lifestyle guide for successful single living.