Why Character Matters to Me

by Dr. Steven J. Callis 

                Whether earned by overwhelming accomplishments or awarded by popular opinion, people rise to the top in their field.  Be it sports, entertainment, politics, academics, or business career, our society has made it a practice to recognize and honor the leaders.

                The standard of judgment is normally based on performance or productivity.  The world rankings for professional golf, for example, are objective, based on a sanctioned calculating system.  On the other hand, a “most valuable player” award is a subjective decision that may include criteria other than statistical data.  Recent presidential debates judged by news reporters and political experts seem to be based on a candidate’s policies, debate strategy, and the ability to maintain composure in the stressful moments of the actual debate.  Naming a debate “winner” is mostly subjective, as well.

                There is one element that is, in many instances, not considered when promoting someone as the best, or as the winner: character.  No matter the ability or skill level, I have difficulty backing someone whose integrity is questionable, or whose character and diplomacy are weak.

                Two decades ago a political giant whose immorality captured the news headlines declared that his personal life had no affect on his ability to be a leader in the political community.  Amazingly, many American citizens seemed to agree with him, so reported the media.  Similarly, there often is a superstar athlete in the news for drug abuse, domestic violence, or other off-the-field improprieties.

                The question is this: does it matter?  Those empowered by their fame say that it does not matter.  As long as they perform to the satisfaction of the public and do what they are paid to do, personal character is of no issue.  Do you agree?

                Well, it does matter to me, for a few reasons.  For one, character and integrity cannot be turned on and off like a light switch when a person transitions from private live to public arena.  If a person has questionable morality in private, it will follow him to the office or field.  The two cannot be separated. The outflow from that is lack of trust from the public fan base that it creates.

                Another great concern for me is that our children are watching, and often emulating these giants of their fields, especially those who often are in the public eye.  I recall one NBA superstar who was reminded that he is a role model for America’s youth, responding that he is not a role model, but an athlete; and if a kid wants him to be a role model, that’s the kid’s problem.  How could he not realize that he has no choice in the matter?  Many children and teens want to be superstars someday, and they will follow the example of others who have successfully reached that dream.

                It may sound crazy to you, but my feelings are so strong that I do not even put such players on my “fantasy” teams.  And a political candidate’s character will be no afterthought for me; rather it will play a large role in my vote at every level of government, especially the presidential race.

                Integrity begins at home.  Persons with integrity tend to gravitate to others with like character.  So it really does begin in you and me.  Character; our nation was founded on it, and it must be a part of her restoration.   

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