I have often thought and even verbalized, “I don’t want to assess someone’s character in the midst of their worst moments.” I suppose some of this was out of compassion for that individual and a desire to extend grace, but it likely included a healthy dose of wanting others to extend the same consideration to me. I will admit though, that there has always been a part of me that has wondered if it is in the middle of our worst moments when our true character is actually revealed.
As I was reading today, I came across two statements that brought me once again to this thought. Thomas A Kempis wrote, “Occasions of adversity discover best how great virtue each one has. For such occasions do not make a man frail, but they reveal what sort he is.”
Shortly later I read, “The test of a man’s religious life and character is not what he does in the exceptional moments of life, but what he does in the ordinary times, when there is nothing tremendous or exciting on” (Oswald Chambers).
I don’t think the two statements necessarily disagree, but they do seem to be in contradiction, at least at a cursory glance. Chambers seems to be making the point that people’s real character isn’t revealed in moments of grandeur. On the other hand, Kempis does seem to say that people’s character is truly revealed in moments of extreme duress. So what is it? Is our true character revealed in our lowest moments, highest moments, or through the slough of normal life? I venture to say that our character is revealed in different ways in all moments. With that said, while character likely is revealed in the lowest of moments, those are not the moments to communicate that revelation 🙂
For what it’s worth. I was reading Leslie Vernick’s book How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong. It’s good so far.