February 7, 2020

Dear Drama Observers,

Character is who you are when no one’s watching.

We’ve all heard that quote which has been attributed to the legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, among others. In people of character, there’s a congruence between their public and private lives. It’s a high compliment to say of someone: “He is who he appears to be.”

I’ve written often that Drama People wear masks that keep their inner selves shielded off from public view. It’s only when you get in close that you discover who they really are. They are people lacking in character. The mental health category into which they fit is called Personality Disorders which, interestingly, used to be called Character Disorders, a term descriptive of their characteristic ways of operating. We’ll sometimes talk about their malignant character deficiencies.

Another feature possessed by Normal People lacking in Drama People is the ability to maintain who they are internally despite external pressures to change. “Remember who you are,” is a common admonition from parents to children as a way to guard against the pernicious influence of peer pressure. We think highly of people who never lose sight of their moral North Stars as they wind through the hair pin turns of life.

In her book, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee tells the story of a Jim Crow era, Alabama lawyer named Atticus Finch. Finch had decided to defend a local black man named Tom Robinson who’d been accused of rape. Finch believed the case was weak and the evidence scant. But in those days, deliberations by all-white juries in such cases were brief and guilty verdicts were foregone conclusions. Despite his limited chances of success, Finch took the case because he felt it was the right thing to do.

In explaining this principle to his daughter, Finch said the following:

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.  

Character is who you are when no one’s watching. I’d like to add something to that sentiment.

Character is remaining who you are no matter the pressure.

Till next week.

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