…the character of a man…

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

What does that mean?
Well, most people are really nice to the people who can help them.  Weather it’s buttering them up or brown-nosing, there are a plethora of terms for being nice to those who CAN help you.  That, at some level, (in some way, shape or form) is almost expected in this day and age.  But how do most people treat those who can do nothing to help them?  Some are indifferent, others are anywhere from haughty to hostile.  On TV, you often see the rich and powerful treat underlings, staff and hired help like dirt.  It is done that way to show you their character.  So, in essence, you already know this quote, as do most script writers, and they know you know, you know?

Why is character important?
Your character is central to your very being.  It is the set of rules by which you live your life.  It is how you make important decisions.  It is how you are known by other people.  Do you want to be known as a mean person or a kindly person?  As Mr. Scrooge or as Mr. Cratchit?  You will be known as something.  How you treat others, especially those who can do nothing for you (such as strangers, hirelings or people of lower station in life), will help form your reputation.

Where can I apply this in my life?
How do you treat the clerk at the checkout counter?  Are you mean and surly, or kind and understanding?  How about if the machine runs out of paper tape just before you get there, and you have to wait?  How about if the person in front of you decides they didn’t mean to buy something, and everyone has to wait for a manager to approve a VOID?  Hmmmmm.

How do you treat other “public servants”, like the mailman, the clerk at the local motor vehicle department (license plates, drivers licenses, …), the police officer who pulled you over, or the guys picking up your trash?   How about your neighbors, even the one with the teenage kid who plays the music really loud?  Or the one with the dog that loves to bark?  The waiter that was slow with the food (or was it the cook?) or with the water pitcher?  How about everyone’s favorite, the telemarketer or door to door solicitor/salesman?

Now that we have some ideas of who you might not treat well as you might wish, let’s get into some specifics.  Why do you treat them the way you do?  What would you have to think of them as a person to justify your behavior?  How does this reflect on your character?  How do you think you SHOULD treat them?  What would you have to think of them to justify the new behavior towards them?

It’s an easy enough process on paper, but it can be gut-wrenching if you are honest with yourself and have been less than kind to people.  Try it by selecting 3 or 4 times in the recent past when you have been less than kind to.  Then for each, answer every question in the paragraph above.  Try it, you might learn something about yourself, and what it takes to goad you to being someone other than your best possible self.

In the end, I have come up with a saying that I repeat to myself when I start to behave poorly.  “none from whom I cannot learn” – that is, I can learn something from anyone.  Period.  I have yet to have someone pointed out to me from whom I could not learn something.  In some aspect, everyone knows more than I do, could teach me something.  A bum or a beggar?  Humility.  A drunk?  How to be less “stiff necked”, how to unwind.  If you wish, you can try this for yourself.  As always, your mileage may vary.

From: Twitter, undocumented feed (my bad)
confirmed at: http://josephsoninstitute.org/quotes/character.html -look at the very bottom
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Wolfgang_von_Goethe

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