Staying in Character

I love a series of murder mysteries set in 8th Century China featuring a legendary magistrate and statesman called Judge Dee because he was famous for solving crimes. The series was written by Dutch diplomat and ambassador to China before World War II Robert Van Gulik.

I read a comment in a review about what Van Gulik believed based upon his character. I immediately thought that I have no idea what he believed about certain things. He picked up an historical character and wrote fiction using traditional Chinese stories he’d heard. When he developed the character, that character needed to be consistent with a Chinese magistrate of the time. If Judge Dee suddenly became a feminist or didn’t believe in the superiority of the Chinese culture of the time, then he would have been out of character. But I have no idea about Van Gulik.

We must take care imputing character on people or even understanding the character we have built up ourselves. Think of how jarring it is when someone appears to have a certain character and suddenly we learn of behavior totally outside that.

I first heard of pastors years ago who had a carefully burnished character presented to the outside world only to have their real character revealed destroying lives and organizations.

When what we are on the inside is congruent with what we project in public, that is staying in character. Authentically. Truthfully. And we can be trusted. We develop this over a lifetime. We are aware of our inner struggles and work them through in order to be true to the character we’ve established for ourselves.

We are responsible for ourselves. Take care to stay in character.

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