“There is but one quality necessary for the perfect understanding of character, one quality that, if man have it, he may dare to judge—that is, omniscience. Most people study character as a proofreader pores over a great poem: his ears are dulled to the majesty and music of the lines, his eyes are darkened to the magic imagination of the genius of the author; that proofreader is busy watching for an inverted comma, a mis-spacing, or a wrong-font letter. He has an eye trained for the imperfections, the weaknesses. Men who pride themselves on being shrewd in discovering the weak points, the vanity, dishonesty, immorality, intrigue and pettiness of others think they understand character. They know only part of character—they know only the depths to which some men may sink; they know not the heights to which some men may rise. An optimist is a man who has succeeded in associating with humanity for some time without becoming a cynic.” ~ William George Jordan
There is a chasm of difference between the letter and the spirit of the laws of living. Most people content themselves with a surface understanding of the deeper matters of life. Whether they feel themselves too busy and too tired to invest the time and mental energies required to bridge the gap between letter and spirit or insufficiently educated for such a task, they seem to prefer the momentary contentment of ignorance to the lasting happiness of gnosis.
Take, for example, the matter of character. A man of true character is one who has worked to the end that his inner perfection is regularly made manifest in and through his heart, mind and body. Such a man is undaunted by the difficulties of life. He meets, or perhaps better put, relishes the challenges that come his way and he is strengthened by every turn of events rather than depleted by them. This is an enlightened state of being.
Those lacking character tend to be obsessed with the letter of the laws which govern it. They mimic and emulate those men and women of character whom they admire and appreciate, seeking to assemble the various elements of character as one would sew a patchwork quilt. Rather than learning to let the spirit of true character emerge from within in relation to their field of responsibility, they seek to fabricate the appearance of character. Unfortunately, this approach tends to unravel when the pressure comes on.
The fascination with scandal in today’s media has led to a state where people tend to be much more familiar with deficiencies of character than they are with its presence. They pick apart the leaders they elect, criticize those around them and some even go to the extreme of self-deprecation rather than recognizing and emphasizing the strengths of those around them and in themselves.
Never forget: what you emphasize in your world tends to grow.
That is why fear is so dangerous. Fear is a powerful form of emphasis. It is an investment in the very matters which you wish to be freed from. It is a spiritual form of throwing good money after bad. The same goes for hatred. Hatred is an investment in that which you abhor. What you emphasize in your world tends to grow.
Those of true character refuse to waste any of their energies on such trivialities. Men and women of true character dedicate themselves to the discovery and revelation of the heights to which men may rise, while strategically downplaying (as much as possible) the weaknesses in the people and circumstances around them.
Zealously adhering to the letter of the laws of character will only get you so far in the cultivation of your inner wisdom, just as painstakingly complying with the laws of a state will only give you a limited perspective on the spirit of a great nation. Rely too heavily on the letter and ignore the spirit and you will fail. Ignore the letter of the law for an obsession with the spirit and you will likewise come up short. Both must be respected for there to be a true and permanent development of character in you.