Commentary by Rev. Michael VandenBerg
Are you a character, or are you a person of character?
In the fast-paced world of social media, it seems every person is striving to be a character and distinguish themselves from others in outrageous ways. Very often the results are that the actions, videos, statements, arguments or photos are each more ridiculous than the last. Where will all of this end?
I was reminded recently of the foundational virtues that distinguish a person of character. These values, given to us by Aristotle and Plato in millenniums past, have been treasured throughout civilization but in our day seem to have lost their importance.
These treasured values are:
• Prudence – Insight into what is important in life, and then living based on these insights.
• Restraint – Exercising careful control over our actions, speech, thoughts, emotions and reactions.
• Courage – The mental strength that enables us to face life’s trials utilizing the other virtues.
• Justice – Doing the right thing for the right reasons.
My suspicion is that if we would encounter a person “of character,” instead of just another “character,” we would stand in awe. The rarity in our day is disheartening.
Unlike generations before us, we seem to now relish the loud, the outrageous, the strange and the rude. We no longer feel the need to exercise restraint when we oppose the views of others, or compassion when we encounter those who are different than we.
We see this in politics as we attack not only the issues someone stands for, but also the person. We see it in religion as we throw off the wisdom of generations past as being outdated, irrelevant and most egregiously out of fashion. We see this in cultural interactions as we no longer see the value of spirited discourse because it violates our highest value, that being tolerance.
Tolerance carries with it the notion that when we disagree, we will hold only to the lowest common denominator between us rather than strive to reach even higher than either of us could have imagined before. Tolerance doesn’t see differences as something to be cherished for what they bring, but as things to be avoided.
I am not a prophet, but don’t need to be to see that if we as a nation continue down this road, the result will not be to our liking. The causality of discarding virtue will result in the effect of even greater fragmentation of our society, the demise of all civility and, ultimately, hope.
But I believe we can rise above this momentary diversion and again become “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
2nd Peter Chapter 1 says:
“5 Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”