As I get older I see more grey. Ya, ya, ya … the hair jokes .. I get it. Nice!
What I’m talking about are my observations that we don’t live in a binary world of ‘Yes or No’ , ‘Black or White’. We just don’t typically live in “All or Nothing” scenarios. Our world is a series of sliding position points along a continuum. It isn’t static, measured once and labeled. It is a complex, multi-dimensional, constantly evolving space.
Need proof? OK. Some examples that are right off the top of my head include:
- Physical aptitude in sports
- Cooking prowess
- Home repair abilities
- Computer use
- Essay writing
The point being, we have some ability or knowledge in lots of areas — some are just more developed than others. And in many cases increased practice results in improvement.
So our world is a patchwork of grey! Different shades of ‘greyness’ which indicate our varying abilities.
But, what about personal CHARACTER. Is it “Black and White” or is it also on a sliding scale of grey?
Perhaps … you are either a person of CHARACTER or you are not
Let me play this out for a bit …
Quite some time ago I came to the realization that being the same person no matter what you’re doing or who you’re talking to is probably the most important part of maturing — the person you view in the mirror should be the same person others see as well. For example, if you pride yourself in being respectful to people, a person of character believes that should happen everywhere and every time.
It takes a person of strong character to stay resilient in the face of adversity — to stay true to their beliefs despite the crowd in front of them.
Admittedly, it’s almost always easier to go along with the crowd — to fit in — especially when there’s adversity in the group. We see that all the time in our world — people being swayed to act in certain ways because others are arguing a particular side. By agreeing with the group you don’t make any waves.
But, by doing so are you being consistent in your beliefs — in your values — in your character? Does it matter?
I believe it does.
If, for example, you believe that prejudice and discrimination have no place in our society then that belief exists everywhere — not just when it’s convenient. A person with character will stand up for what’s right. It doesn’t mean that you need to stand up on your ‘soap box’ every time yelling to others what you believe, but it does mean that you don’t compromise that value when others stand opposed. For example, when you hear someone belittle someone else you don’t “go along” because it’s easier.
Here are some of my “don’t compromise” beliefs:
- Respect for all persons regardless of their differences — whether it’s the colour of their skin, their religious beliefs, their physical attributes, who they worship, or who they love;
- The importance of being transparent and fair with people;
- Not spreading gossip, misinformation or insults about others especially behind their backs
How many of us have heard an inappropriate joke, demeaning comment or highly charged prejudicial viewpoint and not spoken up? Perhaps even showed agreement to something extremely distasteful. I know that I have been silent on occasion — it just didn’t seem appropriate to speak up; didn’t seem like the time to rock-the-boat. It’s in these moments that I need to challenge myself to act differently — to do the right thing even when it’s really difficult.
Let’s look at a personal example of where I’m passionate about something — the importance of expressing understanding and acceptance of all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI). I have actually reached a pretty good place with this topic — I feel comfortable speaking up about its importance and our necessity to educate, instilling understanding and acceptance. But, I wasn’t always this passionate about this topic and it’s importance to a fair and compassionate society. I wasn’t always this consistent in my standing up for it in a conversation.
So, perhaps Character IS an area where you can improve. Maybe it is also included in life’s patchwork of ‘greyness’.
Maybe Character is something …
- we need to reflect on regularly
- we can get better at over time
- that can be better tomorrow than it is today
2 thoughts on “Life is All About the Grey … But Does That Apply to Character?”
It’s not grey, it’s Arctic Blonde 🙂
Seriously, I think what you are describing is a commitment to authenticity and personal integrity. And I agree that a person of character does stand up for what they believe – But what if it’s not physically or emotionally safe to stand up? I think this is why it is crucial for those of us who are in positions of power and privilege to stand up for those who are discriminated against and marginalized. So thank you, Dave, for your commitment to supporting the work in SOGI.
Thank you, Maureen. You’ve raised some excellent points about feeling emotionally safe and the necessity of those you are in positions of authority to be the voice of inclusion, respect and dignity.