50 Thoughts: Character Really Does Count

Originally published September 5, 2018

On a day like this, it’s kind of hard to think about anything else, isn’t it?

I lost track of time this evening, falling right into the news channel abyss, between Supreme Court justice hearings, more commentary on Bob Woodward’s book about President Trump, and then of course the New York Times Op-Ed about life inside the White House.

It’s interesting, too, to think ahead — what will the world look like a year from now when this post pops back up in my “memories” on Facebook. Will Trump still be president? Will things be better? Worse?

All that brain twisting in a single evening, though, and I keep coming back to the lessons my kids were taught in elementary school, wrapped up in a program called “Character Counts.” I’m sure that I got the same spiel when I was that little, and it’s interesting what sticks. How much of it is nurture versus nature, I don’t know. What I do know to be true, though, is it’s never occurred to me to be anything other than a person of integrity.

I’m not talking about the lies we tell ourselves, our friends and our families growing up. Nearly everyone at some point fibs about where they were the night before or how much they had to drink at a party. No, I’m addressing the guidance system at your core — the one that either is capable of understanding consequences as they are tied to actions and accepting responsibility, or chooses to deflect and blame others, lie so often and with such ease that it becomes ingrained in your nature and adopt a world view that is entirely incompatible with human dignity.

I know that as a parent, I’ve dissected just about every misstep my kids have made — is it a missed opportunity on my part? Did I not accurately convey a life lesson? It’s hard not to shake that feeling of “God I hope I haven’t fucked this up” when you see your kid screw up. I know, I know — kids need to make bad choices to learn the difference from good ones and move on. It’s just soooo hard to watch.

Where did Don’s parents go wrong? Or is it just in his DNA to be an awful person? How and where and why did he miss the lesson about how character counts? How integrity is critical to leadership? I don’t know we’ll ever really understand what makes narcissistic gasbags tick, so I guess all we can do is continue to walk the talk ourselves, set the example, and hope that others on the world stage can stand up and make a difference.

Today’s recommendation: Believer by David Axelrod, because … just because.

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