Tag Archives: character

Here’s a Great Measuring Stick for Character


RMS Queen Elizabeth

I wasn’t looking for anything profound, just enjoying a good book, a great story, and a quiet meal when I stumbled across a little nugget of wisdom. Sometimes what is profoundly wise reaches out and grabs us unexpectedly. Well, yes, we think, that is so true, so true that we’re a little surprised we hadn’t thought of it or put it into words ourselves. But we recognize the ring of truth and “Amen” it with a whispered, “Yes, that’s right!”

And here’s the glittering nugget of truth I mined during lunch that day, from the pen of J. K. Rowling: “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

Well, what do you think?

I think the truth in that statement will rarely ever steer you wrong.

If you want to take the measure of your weight, scales are available.

If you want to take the measure of your height, a variety of measuring sticks and devices exist for just such a task.

And if you really want to take the measure of a person’s character, maybe the very best yard stick is this one: How does he or she treat their “inferiors”? (This measure is one serious reason I find what will likely be the choice we face in our nation’s next presidential election disgusting, repulsive, appalling, and add your own bleak adjectives. Pick a finger you’d most like to smash with a sledge hammer. That sort of choice.)

But before we start measuring somebody else’s character with this particular stick, we’d be well-advised to use it first to measure our own.

How do we treat those who are weaker or smaller, poorer or less educated, less socially prominent or less popular than ourselves? The answer says a great deal about who we are really.

Maybe they are employees. Family members. Community members. Or just folks we meet at the store, in the Post Office, or down the street.

As the story goes (I’ve long ago lost the source), maritime painters were putting yet another coat of paint on the huge smoke funnels of a great luxury ocean liner. Was it RMS Queen Elizabeth? Something of that class. They were amazed to discover that the actual metal had invisibly deteriorated in many places to such an extent that multiple layers of paint were about the only real substance holding the funnels together!

When our lives are weighed in the balance, when the external and largely illusory societal facade of houses, cars, bank accounts, etc., fades into the background, and when all that’s left, or not, of the real framework of our lives is something called character—something that the poorest person on this planet can possess in rich measure and the richest person on the planet, if he lacks it, can’t buy at any price—what will be left?

Do we really want to know?

We can. We measure our own character every time we interact with those “below” us.

I’m thankful the Lord loved those below him—the lame, the blind, the deaf, the poor, the sinful—those who could never put him in their debt. And add to that list your name and mine. Then let’s ask ourselves how we deal with those “below” us. We’ll never find a better measuring stick for character.

Character matters. All the more when we live amidst so many folks who deny that it does.



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Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Some Thoughts on Pride, Flies, and the Common Cold


It’s quite true. Pride is still the deadliest of the sins besetting fallen humanity. As pervasive as acne at a Justin Bieber concert, sinful pride entwines its roots around and throughout the human heart, and only the Spirit of God can effectively deal with its cancer.

But what, pray tell, does the human race really have to be arrogant about?

I stopped writing a few moments ago to deal with an age-old blight and do some killing. Flies. I hate ’em! The only good one is a dead one, but it’s autumn; they all want inside, lest they freeze to death. And the fight is on! I know we have a few other weapons, but still the best and most fulfilling way to dispatch the little pests is to swat ’em. There have been, I’m sure, variations on fly swatters, but ever since a cave man rolled up his copy of the Bedrock Times and splattered fly innards across his rock coffee table, most of us have used pretty much the same approach. Yeah, we’re very advanced.

I’d feel “advanced” if I could ever make it through the holidays without a cold, but it’s early November (too early, I’m afraid, for this one to count as the traditional holiday sneeze-fest), and I’m sniffing and snorting and in a foul mood and generally zombied by a wide variety of cold remedies. I’m thankful for some of those cold-fighting options, but “remedy” is a stronger word than they’ve earned.

If I corner the market on kleenex, cough drops, anti-congestion pills, anti-mucous tablets, antihistamine capsules, anti-inflammatory caplets,  anti-cough syrup, nasal passage irrigating “pots” (therapeutic waterboarding), gargles, and a slew of other just general anti-snot pills and paraphernalia . . . I’ll get well in a week or so. Which is probably about the same time I’ll get well if I do nothing and just take the misery full on (which is not tempting).

I wonder how long it took the aforementioned cave man to get well as he snorted, coughed, and spluttered around his cave annoying (and infecting) his wife and family and making himself less miserable by killing flies? Betcha it was about a week. Very advanced we moderns are. Right.

But if you really want to see how far we’ve come, look at the human character. Just kidding, but a look is instructive. A quick perusal of just the ancient Bible book of Genesis makes it depressingly clear that not much related to the human character has changed. Take a brief glance at even those great patriarchs in that great account. What is most remarkable is that their worst flaws are not by our pathetic standards remarkable at all. The most serious blights of the human spirit “way back when” are the most serious blights of the human spirit exactly right now. It seems our souls are ravaged by a still-rampant virus only God can remedy.

I see ample room for humility. I’m sure I need a big dose.



Copyright 2012 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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