Measuring Character

I’ve heard it said that a person’s character can be guaged by what they do when no one is watching. On some level I agree. We all experience those moments when an opportunity to do something less than moral arises, and the possibility of anyone knowing is close to nothing. Maybe it’s in those moments we can see what a person is truly made of. But there is another, much more obvious scenario where a person’s true character will surface:

When they have been wronged.

Offenses comes in many shapes and sizes. There are small offenses, such as a snide remark that can be quickly overlooked and forgotten without saying a word. Others may require an apology or amends to be wiped clean. But there are some offenses that require immediate and powerful reaction. Possibly over a long period of time. I believe it is during these most hurtful offenses that our true character is exposed for all to see.

Stage 1: The Reaction

Maybe someone has harshly insulted you in front of your peers. You find that your business partner has been lying to you. Someone rear ends your car at a stop light. These moments call for immediate reaction.

Perhaps your reaction is unbridled. You blast out of the car and begin berating the person who has rear ended you. Maybe you begin hurling verbal insults back at your attacker. You punch the business partner in the nose. Do you fall into one of these categories, or do you rise above the moment?

Can you step out of your totaled car and ask the other person if they’re alright? Do you remove yourself from the situation without saying a word to preserve your character? This moment, the one immediately after an offense, can be a clear measure of a person’s character.

Stage 2: The Next Day

If you have survived the initial moment of impact with your character intact, what does it look like the next day? Are you already able to forgive your offender? Have you moved past the incident or are you repeating it in your mind over and over, growing with resentment after each play?

A person with true character, while still hurting, can begin to move past the offense. Working towards restoring a hurt relationship or broken trust. Are you walking in kindness and forgiveness, or is the offensive still simmering?

Stage 3: The Long Game

We’re all different, and for some of us it takes much longer to forget an offense then just a few days. But will you fall into a lifelong spirit of bitterness and hold a grudge. You may have acted graciously in the moment of offensive, and even been civil the next day, but where is your mind a year from now?

Most likely the person who offended you has forgotten or moved on, but have you? The thought may not be constant, but does your disdain for that person still fester over time?

A grudge held is a disease. Not only infecting the broken relationship between you and your offender, but leaking out to other relationships. Maybe someone has lightly offended you and is not even aware. Suddenly you now hold a grudge against them too. And with each new offense, holding a grudge becomes your natural posture.

Where is your character? Can you act humane in the moment of an offense but hold a grudge for years to come? Do you explode on impact and show your true colors immediately during the offense? Or do you have the ability to forgive even the harshest attack and walk away with your character intact?