Jul 212016 23 Responses

I Still Believe Character Matters

The core value of good leadership is character. Ability matters. Decision-making is vital. The skills to communicate and inspire are essential. But character trumps them all.

I was taught this growing up in a conservative, evangelical church in the late 80s and early 90s. I didn’t know it at the time, but the community that raised me was known as the Religious Right. Spending a few years around great Biblical scholars would later show me that not everything that church taught me was true or Biblical. Yet they got more right than they got wrong. (See: You Control What Matters Most)

Few things did they get more right than the idea that character counts.

While issues are important, my mentors preached the soul of a man or woman was of far greater importance than any individual debate. Two people can get a lot of work done even if they disagree on key issues, but only if trust is present. Trust is a byproduct of good character. Issues are debatable, character is not.

Character Is Not Perfection

Everyone is imperfect. The importance of character does not mean we expect our leaders to be different. Character is not perfection. Our leaders can’t be perfect. They will make bad choices, sometimes disastrous choices. Some of those choices can disqualify them from leadership, but rarely. More often than not, if a leader properly handles a bad decision–admits it, seeks forgiveness, makes amends–the mistake can actually propel them to better leadership.

However, we can’t fall for the false teaching that because every person is imperfect, bad choices can be ignored. Some are quick to excuse themselves or their leaders whenever they make mistakes by quickly comparing them to the mistakes of others. It’s a false comparison. Not every mistake is equal. Some things do have more penal consequences than others.

A pastor who has a series of affairs can be forgiven, but he should not continue to direct a church.

A teacher who says inappropriate things to a student can move on, but should never be trusted around children.

A leader who refuses to acknowledge his immorality can do significant things, but they should not be allowed to lead.

Character matters. (See: How to Better Control Yourself)

Power Over Character

Sadly, many of the leaders of the Religious Right have given up on the idea of character. Some never believed in it–the message was spoken to manipulate the vote and take in money. Others believed the message, but have been disappointed by leaders they thought had a strong moral fiber. Having experienced the disappointment, they are now willing to sacrifice character for the mirage of power.

Power has always been the great threat to character. It lures leaders and followers alike, telling us we can make excuses for thoughts and behaviors because the end is more important than the means. It causes us to justify inappropriate actions of those we like because we fear what happens if our guy loses or the other party takes control. Power lures us in relationships, politics, management, and every human endeavor.

It was the seduction of power which lured Adam and Eve from obedience. It was the arrogance of power which swayed David that he deserved Bathsheba. It was the fear of losing power which convinced Ananias and Sapphria that they could lie about how much money they gave. The seduction of power causes us to do foolish things, follow the wrong people, hurt those we lead, and sacrifice everything we know to be right just in hopes of having control.

Power Demands Character

Power is so (sorry for this) powerful that it cannot be handled lightly. Anyone who thinks they deserve power, shouldn’t be given it. Anyone arrogant enough to believe they can handle it without any negative effects, shouldn’t be trusted.

Only those who have keen awareness of the dangers of power and a humility which forces them to surround themselves with checkpoints can be trusted with the reigns of power.

Power has proven itself so dangerous in this history of humanity that it demands character from those who have it. When we dance with giving the immoral person the most power, we are dancing toward our own death.

To say character no longer matters is to sacrifice everything I know to be true.

What They Taught Me Was True

I was raised by a loving, conservative, Christian community. They loved me, encouraged me, and showered their support on me. I can’t imagine life without them.

One of the greatest lessons they taught me was that character matters. They were right.

And it still does.

I can understand many of the Evangelical Republicans looking at the current election and choosing to vote against the Democrat. It’s what Republicans do. Parties matter and while I don’t always vote along party lines, I can appreciate those that do. I have no problem with Republicans (or Democrats) who vote along party lines. (See: When Trump Becomes a Christian)

What I can’t understand is how so many who believe that character matters have boldly embraced a candidate for whom character is never part of the discussion. Many who thought Bill Clinton was the anti-Christ now campaign for a man who would make Bill Clinton blush. It would be one thing if they did this after every other candidate was defeated, but many did so while there was ample opportunity to enlist a candidate with solid moral character.

Maybe You Can, I Can’t

Possibly for the first time in my adult life, I can understand (and have compassion) no matter how a person says they will vote in this election cycle. Some will say I can’t vote for him, so they will vote for her. Some will say they can’t vote for her, so they will vote for him. As for me, I can’t vote for either one. I want to vote. And I will vote. But I cannot vote for either of the two main candidates.

I can’t, because while the Religious Right got many things wrong, they got one thing right–character matters.

It did then. It does now.

I still believe character matters.

photo courtesy of:  Qqqqqq at en.wikipedia

23 Responses to I Still Believe Character Matters
  1. […] (Note: Standing up for the same issues after an election that you stood for before an election is mo... https://www.kevinathompson.com/move-on-the-election-is-over
  2. […] “He lies, as we have seen, about everything, about matters big and small, about things that ma... https://www.kevinathompson.com/dont-become-george-conway

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