Antique Map and Compass

Character is Something You Do

Antique Map and Compass
Antique Map and Compass, by Schaeffler

Dear Son,

I worry sometimes that I am bringing you into a world that has become morally and culturally bankrupt.  On the one hand we have peace and prosperity to a degree no human civilization has ever known before, but on the other hand, we also live in a time when people sneer at the idea of moral absolutes, right and wrong, character, and decency.  Where we would rather have “Social Justice” than actual justice, and where we see the victim as being noble and the hero as an arrogant fool.

I am not a particularly conservative man.  I do believe that many of the institutions of our past have long since outlived their usefulness.  I believe that a man or woman has the right to love as they choose, work as they choose, serve whom they choose, and pray as they see fit – or not at all.  I believe that the best thing we can do for people is to leave them alone to come to their own conclusions and live life as they see best.

But there is a horrible strand that has taken over in our culture that has some terrible, foolish claims:

  • Hate and fear are only bad when mixed with power. (“intersectionality”)
  • There is no right or wrong, only fair and unfair. (“values adjustment”)
  • Everything is subjective. (“relativism”)
  • There is no world outside of your perceptions, you can never know what’s really real. (“subjectivism”)
  • No one can know what another person’s experiences are like. (“standpoint epistemology”)
  • No one has the right to judge other people. (“moral relativism”)
  • Everyone is special and unique, we deserve praise for their efforts, not our achievements. (“self-esteem”)

One of the drives behind these ideas is to make it so that people are considered good no matter what they do, that way no one can judge anyone for anything.  The struggle to accept and win equal rights was so difficult that some people would rather just say – “let’s get rid of judgment altogether, so no one can call anything wrong ever again, and we never have to fight to earn another right.”  But taking away judgment and social standards has not been good for us as a culture.  We are reaping a lot of terrible consequences of it now.

One thing that I have seen in particular that I worry about is that many people today feel like they have the right to be given respect and praise, and to be treated like accomplished people, when they have done nothing to earn that right.  And these people often speak of “character” and “respectability” as things that people just automatically have.

But it doesn’t work that way.  Respect is something that you earn because you have proven yourself trustworthy, motivated, and of good character.  And Character is something that you build and nurture through the deeds you do.

Character isn’t an invisible quality endowed to us, it is the sum of your actions and what they say about your attitude, beliefs, and morals.  When you act with leadership, compassion, and courage, those qualities grow stronger and more powerful within you.  They change your thought process and your actions.  The more you act with character, the more character comes naturally to you, and that is something other people see in you, and are drawn to.

People who demand respect because they deserve it, rarely get it.  No matter how much they try to change the rules, they remain a constant.  Only real character wins real respect.  And with it they also get a better class of friends, better support, better lovers, and better work.

I hope that I will raise you to believe as I do that building character is worth it, and not fall to the temptation of saying “I deserve to be seen as having character.” as far too many people do in my generation.  I promise you, that I will do my best for you in that regard.



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