When Character Doesn’t Count
By Sam Collins
Segments of our society have long claimed to prize moral character and individual integrity. That is what many find so disturbing about the current state of affairs. It often appears that character has been reclassified as an old-fashioned, nonessential line of goods—much like mustaches wax, buttonhooks, and whalebone corsets.
Despite the current hand-wringing over the moral state of our age, large slices of the populace seem to place a higher value on surface skills and superficial star-quality than on character. If that observation is in error, then why do recording artist sales and movie ticket revenues often rise faster than a Victorian’s eyebrow after a celebrity is caught indulging in a spree of debauchery or engaging in other activities that would embarrass a Hollywood pimp?
Occasionally someone will exhibit behavior so disreputable that people will actually get agitated enough to shake their heads and mutter “tsk, tsk.” In extreme cases the tide of public sentiment will turn against the malefactors to such a degree that they can only earn thousands upon millions of dollars by selling their stories to book publishers, trash tabloids, and TV interview shows. In other words, a lot of people claim to despise the sin, but that does not dissuade them from feeding their voyeuristic fascination and enriching industries that showcase and line the pockets of the sinner.
Unfortunately, our culture encourages us to evaluate people by what they “accomplish,” not by what they are at the core of their souls. And, let’s face it, a faulty character does not necessarily erode professional performance. Philandering football players have been known to make all-pro. Mean-spirited, venom-spewing lechers sometimes write bestsellers. On occasion, fame and fortune embrace members of the legal profession who posses ethical sensibilities that are dwarfed by cold viruses and subatomic particles.
I suspect that our civilization will have difficulty turning the character corner unless we begin evaluating and lauding individuals based on the same criteria that the Lord favors. One brief passage of Scripture confirms that God uses a yardstick with which many are unfamiliar: “Crooked minds are an abomination to the LORD, but those of blameless ways are his delight” (Prov 11:29 NRSV).
Unlike the bulk of the human species, God is unimpressed with the phenomenal feats of pop icons or cultural pooh-bahs or even narcissistic religious glitterati. If our society is to truly embrace high principles and virtues, we also must begin to generate more enthusiasm for the unassuming upright than for the unprincipled headliners, bigwigs, superstars, and higher-ups who currently garner our attention and approbation.
The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Church of God Ministries or, at points, even the writer, but are written with tongue firmly planted in cheek to hopefully provoke a leavening bit of laughter and a smidgen of thought.