Thursday, April 14, 2016

Judging Character

I've been thinking about how we judge others' real characters.  I don't think we often do a very good job with this.  But the truth is that there really are ways to get at the core of who a person is.  There are clear indications of the innate nature of another person if we pay attention.  Here are some of the things I look for when I am looking for a partner or when I'm trying to really understand another person.  I'd love to hear your opinions and what you look for as well.

1. How does the person treat animals?  And maybe even more, how do animals react to and around the person?  This won't necessarily be universal.  Some animals just don't like people, for example. But when an animal who is usually cautious approaches, snuggles, purrs around a specific person and when I see that person react with joy, calm and steady presence, with sweetness and a total lack of fear or anger, I take that as a very good sign.
2.  How does he/she behave in their car?  Does he or she act with a sense of entitlement to the road and to the speed they choose and the path they are going without regard for others?  Or instead, are they able to recognize that other human beings, all with places to go and things on their hearts and minds, are actually driving the other cars that surround them?  Are they forgiving?  Patient? Compassionate in their cars?  Do they make room with their cars when folk are trying to change lanes or merge?  Are they kind in their cars?  To me this shows an awareness of others, even people we don't know and may never meet face to face.  It shows a choice to be compassionate for others, even when others make mistakes, recognizing that we all make mistakes.  Letting people in to one's lane shows a choice to be kind even when it will not be rewarded with recognition or a return in kindness.
3.  How do people treat other people who might be seen as their "inferiors"?  This begins with how they treat service people, waiters/waitresses, janitors.  But it extends to people who are often less privileged in one way or another: people of color, women, immigrants, refugees, people of different faith traditions. Are they able to see all of these people as real human beings, again with many things on their hearts and minds who are just trying to live, love and make their lives the best they can for themselves and their families?  Can they put aside differences and value each individual for who they are? It also extends to how they treat people who may not have the same social rank or personal social skills as others.  Are they kind and compassionate towards them as well, even when the connections might not "better" them socially? 
4.  How do they react to meanness from others?  Do they react with rage?  Or worse, with cruelty, vengeance, condemnation or even violence?  Are they able to remember that everyone has a bad day once in a while and that it is helpful to treat everyone with kindness, especially those who are acting badly. We can turn around another person's day by acting with compassion when they are misbehaving. We can often stop rageful behavior by reacting with quiet kindness in the face of another person's anger.  We can make a difference by being nice.  Meanness usually leads to more meanness.  Anger usually leads to more anger.  Hate and revenge lead to more and more hate and revenge.  It is an amazing person who can turn that around; a person I want to be like and a person I would choose any day for a friend.
5.  How do they express anger?  Do they talk directly about what has upset them or do they act in passive aggressive ways?  Do they speak about their own feelings and experiences or do they attack, verbally or in other ways, those with whom they are upset?  Do they try to understand the other person's experience or stick stubbornly to their own version of each story?  Can they listen, hear, be compassionate even when they are hurt or angry?
6.  How do they treat their relatives?  Are they respectful?  Are they kind?  Even when the relative is annoying or out of touch or less than brilliant, do they still work hard to be patient, understanding and caring?  It is hard to be around family sometimes.  But do they work to be gracious and polite even in those challenging situations?  Even around people who will love them no matter what?
7.  How do they treat those who work for them?  Are they grateful?  Do they express that gratitude?  Do they help to make the days of those who work for them positive and do they help them to feel appreciated and that their work is valuable?
8.  How do they treat those who are "invisible" - the homeless, the street folk, the mentally ill?  Do they acknowledge them, treat them with kindness, look them in the eye.  Do they treat them with respect?
9.  How do they talk about other people?  Are they demeaning in their language? Constantly finding fault with others?  Ridiculing others?  Humiliating others?  Or are they kind and respectful towards people even when they are not there, not present, not able to hear their words?
10.  Are they able to see their own part in a problem or conflict?  Or do they simply blame others for what has happened to them?  In the same way, can they be grateful for the help that others have given that has led them to be where they are, or do they claim sole credit for their achievements as much as blaming others for their failures?
11.  Once they have owned their part, are they able to apologize with sincerity and work hard to make amends for any way they may have contributed to another person's suffering?
12.  Are they able to learn new things, to grow, to move forward in their understanding and world views?  Or are they stubbornly stuck in a particular world view and unwilling to learn?
13.  Do they keep their promises?  And do they tell the truth?  Faithful, loyal, steadfast in their friendships and their commitments to others and to themselves?
14.  Do they work to make the world a better place?  Do they work to make themselves more loving? And to share that love with a world that sometimes seems to be lacking in love?
15.  Do they have a sense of humor?  Can they laugh at themselves and the world?  Can they be silly?
16.  Are they inclusive?  Ever widening circles of friendship, groups, acquaintanceships, etc.?  Or do they set up walls and barriers and keep some "out" and some "in".  Are they gate keepers who decide who is acceptable and who is not?
17.  Are they gentle in word and in deed, offering help to those who need it?
18.  Do they jump up when they see a need and address it?  Or do they wait for others to take care of what needs to be done?
19.  Are they generous with their time and talents?
20.  Do they smile at strangers?
  Two more since I wrote the above:  One from another person's suggestion and one of my own.
21.  How do they behave when they think others don't see them?  Are they still kind and generous even when their efforts will go completely unrecognized and unrewarded?  And on the other side, when someone thinks they can get away with selfishness or meanness without it being caught or noticed, do they take advantage of that?  Do they do "anonymous" behaviors that are unkind, destructive, damaging or just plain selfish?
22.  Do they stand up for those being treated unfairly?  Are they willing to speak up when they see unkindness?  Are they willing to step in when someone is being mistreated?  Do they risk harm to themselves in order to protect someone else who is being attacked in some way?

I may add to this list.  Again, I would love to hear what you see as the behavior that identifies another person's real character.  I will be the first to admit that I am not perfect in any of these areas.  But these are the things I look for and value in others.  And they are behavior goals I set for myself as well.