Test of character pic2In my previous career I managed the Quality Assurance department of a company that produced communications hardware and software.

Before releasing a product to manufacturing we tested it to ensure that it met quality standards and customer expectations. “Stress tests” were one of the most important methods that we used. We observed product performance under harsh environmental conditions such as extreme temperatures, humidity, vibration and impact.

Nobody will buy a smartphone that breaks after a child throws it to the ground. Customers will be delighted to see their electronic watch work after being washed and dried along with their clothes.

The same is true with humans. One’s true nature and character is revealed under pressure. Men and women of character adhere to moral and behavioral standards despite the various pressures of life.

Pressure comes in the form of adversity such as hardships, pain, suffering and mistreatment. The reverse is also true. Power, success, wealth and fame also pressure us to abandon ethical norms.

Both extreme stress and extreme success pressure us, squeezing our soul and mind and exposing the deepest hidden qualities. One’s true nature is revealed under pressure.

Most of us behave fairly well under pleasant circumstances, when things are going our way. We are typically kind to those who are nice to us.

But life is not always pleasant or easy. We all face difficulties such as health issues, financial problems, and family and work challenges. Many of us suffer from mild or even severe forms of emotional or psychological conditions such as low self-esteem, insecurities, fears, and various complexes.

Equally relevant, one’s character proves itself when a person continues to love, care for and respect friends and acquaintances when acquiring power, wealth and fame. These “blessings” can falsely convince one that they are great and know everything, leading to conceit. Success in one area does not translate into omniscience or omnipotence. Immature people, intoxicated by “success,” consider themselves licensed to anything.

The true test of greatness is one’s willingness and ability to remain faithful to high moral and ethical standards despite the pressures of life.

Here are a few examples:

  • You selflessly reach out and help those in need despite your own hardships.
  • A sick husband silently attends to the needs of his suffering wife without complaining of his pain.
  • An employee who has been unfairly fired refrains from badmouthing his former employer.
  • An employee promoted to a high position continues to be friendly and kind to his former colleagues.
  • You continue to be kind to a friend who failed to help you in your greatest hour of need.
  • When sensing unfair treatment one does not reciprocate in kind, but responds constructively, based on an understanding of the offender’s context and the real causes of his emotional reaction.
  • You view life’s injustices as opportunities to help improve the plight of the exploited rather than a reason to become bitter, hopeless and cynical.
  • You handle disagreements and challenges to your perspective with humility and an understanding of the others’ point of view.

Character is shaped over a lifetime as one acknowledges his/her flawed nature through soul searching, meditation and Divine help.

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