By Henrylito D. Tacio
Do you know of some very talented people who suddenly fall apart when they achieve a certain level of success? The reason for that phenomenon is character.
In his book, The Success Syndrome, author Steven Berglas writes that people who achieve great heights but lack the bedrock character to sustain them through the stress are headed
Berglas, an American psychologist, believes these people are destined for one or more of the following: arrogance, painful feelings of aloneness, destructive adventure-seeking, or adultery. Each is a terrible price to pay for weak character.
“Someday, you will be wrestling with the great temptation, or trembling under the great sorrow of your life,” Phillips Brooks states. “But the real struggle is here, now, in these quiet weeks. Now it is being decided whether, on the day of your supreme sorrow or temptation, you shall miserably fail or gloriously conquer. Character cannot be made except by a steady, long-continued process.”
A life built on the sands of celebrity can be wrecked by the rains of reverses. A life built on the sands of materialism can be destroyed by the floods of adversity. A life built on the sands of pleasure can be blown down by the winds of disillusionment. Only the life that is
built on the rock of character can withstand the tempests of time.
A number of famous quotes about characters down through the years have focused on one attribute: the hidden nature of the character. “Character is what you are in the dark,” said Dwight L. Moody. “The measure of man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would be found out.”
An unknown author penned these words: “The difference between personality and character: Personality is what you are when lots of people are around; character is what you are when everybody goes home.”
A scorpion, being a poor swimmer, asked a turtle to carry him on his back across a river. “Are you out of your mind,” exclaimed the turtle. “You’ll sting me while I’m swimming and I’ll drown.”
“My dear turtle,” the scorpion laughed. “If I were to sting you, you would drown and I would go down with you. Now, where is the logic in that?”
“You’re right,” the turtle agreed. “Hop on!”
The scorpion climbed aboard, and halfway across the river, gave the turtle a mighty sting. As they both sank to the bottom, the turtle resignedly said, “Do you mind if I ask you Something? You said there’d be no logic in your stinging me. Why did you do it?”
“It has nothing to do with logic,” the drowning scorpion sadly replied. “It’s just my character.”
Character, someone once said, is not made in crisis; it is only exhibited. It was an anonymous caller who informed Erik that a certain priest named Bernard was delivering sermons aimed at subverting Germany’s racial policies. Erik knew little about the priest’s background and could not imagine what had compelled him to take this rash course. After all, the majority of churches, both Catholic and Protestant, had either supported the policies or remained discreetly neutral.
Erik attended an evening service and found the church less than a third full. During his sermon, Father Bernard proclaimed Christ’s love and asked those gathered to pray for the Jews. Several left as he preached.
As Father Bernard removed his vestments, Erik said to him, “You are gravely misinformed.” The priest looked at him with tired, sensitive eyes and said simply, “I know what is happening to the Jews. And so do you, Captain.”
When the priest died in Dachau, Erik concluded, “I feel a bit sorry for him. He simply did not understand the need to run with the tide, to accept the inevitable.”
Although Erik and Bernard are fictional characters in Gerald Green’s book, Holocaust, they make a strong point: Character does not bend to politics.
Our character is what God knows us to be. Our reputation is what men think we are. “Promises must be kept, deadlines met, commitments honored; not just for the sake of old-fashioned morality, but because we become what we do (or fail to do), and character is simply the sum of our performance,” Howard Sparks commented.
Many years ago, a boy was born in Russia who thought of himself to be so ugly, and he was certain there would be no happiness for him in life. He bemoaned the fact that he had a wide nose, thick lips, small gray eyes, and big hands and feet. He was so distraught about his ugliness; he asked God to work a miracle and turn him into a handsome man. He vowed that if God would do this, he would give Him all he possessed, as well as he might possess in the future.
That Russian boy was Count Tolstoy, one of the world’s foremost authors in the twentieth century, perhaps best known for his epic War and Peace.
In one of his books, he admitted that through the years, he discovered that the beauty of physical appearance he had once sought was not the only beauty in life. Indeed, it was not the best beauty.
Instead, Tolstoy came to regard the beauty of a strong character as having the greatest good in God’s sight.
So many people spend enormous sums today on their physical appearance. Character, in contrast, is not a matter of money or of looks. It is a matter of doing what is right apart from money and of standing up for what is right apart from appearances.
“Men of genius are admired, men of wealth are envied, men of power are feared; but only men of character are trusted,” says Alfred Adler.