Tests of Character

One had been catching up with the Forum podcasts and had just completed the Characters episode and found a test of true character interesting. The host, Quentin Cooper, mentioned aphorism from the famous that reveals people’s characters —for Abraham Lincoln, it’s how they dealt with power; for Gertrude (of Hamlet?), it’s how they treat those who can do nothing for them; etc. One of the panelists, David Brooks, brought up a romantic advice, if you’re marrying someone sneak up behind them and startle them. If they laugh it’s a good sign. If they react with anger, it’s a bad sign, a red flag.

There are a lot of similar tests flying around one’s facebook feeds at the moment. The latest one is how one’s choice of a picture of a lane to a forest tell one’s character. One got the “you are thoughtful and think-through type of person and, since the road ends halfway, you make your own [road].” It was a flattering assessment until one told oneself, “you moron! You can’t be thinking it’s real, can you!” One lumped this test into the “modern day astrology” category.

Also carefully lumped in such category are MBTI-inspired tests. One mentioned “carefully” because MBTI, flawed it may be, has its uses in certain field. But when it began to dictate one’s supposed preference for companions or spouse, or one’s alleged compatibility and incompatibility with certain types, “that’s an abuse of a fairly limited tool,” a good friend reminded one.

Personally, one developed one’s own tests throughout one’s life: how someone treats his or her subordinate; how one would treat the less fortunate; etc. One thing for sure is that if one wants to learn about someone’s character, one needs to get to know him or her personally.

The latest in one’s armory, how one acts and reacts to one’s suffering when one is sick or under pressure, is also quite the definitive guide. One had to admit, these often reaffirmed one’s own prejudice presumption of him or her, which meant one had picked up some hints or clues about these people previously. One time, one encountered someone who swore a lot unecessarily and became incredibly irritable, loud and bossy —ordering people around as if the world revolved around him or her— during sickness just as he or she would normally, just less so. In another, one encountered someone with incredible patience and grace, which one wished one had possessed when one had been sick, just as he or she would normally. Although most of the time, one should remind oneself to excuse another’s misbehaviour or misdemeanor: he or she is sick, or ill, or having a hard time! So stop judging and have mercy!

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