Best of: Character is Important

“Is the moral character of a political candidate important?”

As another United States Representative is marred in controversy, and America is left shaking its head in disbelief. Party affiliation has very little to do with my antipathy for Senator Craig’s situation. I am disappointed that yet another public official had to come before the American people and explain his lack of judgment. The public trust is eroded each time one our representatives, teachers, police officers, doctors, clergy or any numerous public positions is caught in a scandal. The act of one, rightly or wrongly, cast doubt on that entire profession.

It is important for me to state that I am in fact a sinner, as are we all. We are no better or worse that Sen. Craig, Rep. Frank, Sen. Kennedy, Sen. Vitter, President Clinton, Mayor Villaraigosa, and the numerous other public officials that have been exposed (pun intended). Some would say that it is none of our business what each of theses men do in their private lives. I strongly disagree. Each one of these men has failed themselves, their families and their constituents. We have every right to hold our representatives to the highest moral standards; in fact it is imperative. If a public official is incapable of being honest and true to his wife and family, what chance in hell do we constituents have?

Don’t get me wrong. This is not to excuse the actions of each of us in our own lives as well. As citizens, employers, employees, and parents we also have to set a moral example. The truth is that it is far easier to go astray when we apply our own morality to life, choosing to see “gray areas,” instead of accepting the black and white of life. The rules for an ethical life are simple, and were provided for us a long time ago. They are called the Ten Commandants, and they hold the key for our moral existence. In Matthew 22 (The New Testament), the 10 Commandments were summed up when Jesus was confronted by the religious experts of the day:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40).

A reflective reading of Christ’s teaching tells us that the first four commandments given to the children of Israel are contained in the statement: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” It continues that the last six commandments are enclosed in the statement: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

What Jesus was saying was that all of Commandments are important. The problem begins when we “pick and choose” which Commandments we will follow, and which Commandments can be ignored. Contrary to many people’s opinions, morality is not subjective. There is a wrong and right, and very little “gray area.” Stealing is wrong, lying is wrong, cheating (taxes, homework, etc.) is wrong, and being unfaithful to your spouse is wrong. The only thing we have that keeps us together as a community and a family is our trust in one another. Those that violate our trust in a criminal manner are punished. Those that violate our personal trust are either rejected or treated with a great deal of suspicion. If our representatives are not honest in their “private world,” are we truly to believe that they will be more honest in their public dealing?

Trust is the very basis of a successful and functional society. When we can believe in one another, have faith in our neighbors and our government, then we can work together to accomplish anything we want as a community. If we choose to lie, steal, and cheat then we become a dysfunctional family. We withdraw, always holding our neighborhood in contempt, choosing mistrust and malice as our community foundation. A house built on a foundation of suspicion and apathy will cave in on its own weight.

In the end we can see that the character of one person speaks for all of those he/she represents. If we choose to ignore the moral character of our leaders, should we not be surprise when they fail. The difference between a person who chooses a moral life and stumbles, and a person whose chooses an immoral life, but occasionally commits and “act of random kindness,” is vast. Yet both are worthy of forgiveness as long as they truly confess their indiscretion and (here’s the catch!) honestly seek redemption.

I end this article with a slight variation of the question I used to open the commentary – “Is the moral character of a person important?” Well…..Is it?

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