Is Character Destiny?

 

Is it? I have no idea. But prior to the general election, I mentioned Oskar Schindler often. He was corrupt; a thief and a philanderer, yet without those skills, he could not have saved the lives that he did.

My husband is a great guy, but trust me. He’s not the guy you want trying to lie you through immigration.

So, is character destiny? My first response is to ask those who survived because of Schlindler’s ability to lie and cheat. Those on Schindler’s list, so to speak.

What say you: Is character destiny?

There are 32 comments.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    For those who have a true destiny in a particular life, their experiences, good and ill, will serve as a basis for the skills needed to fulfill their destiny.

    • #1
  2. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Indeed. And some will be fortunate enough to recognize the hand of Providence in arranging this so that they could be where they were with the skills they had to do the things they did.

    Nothing is wasted, and all people can work for the good if they choose.

    • #2
  3. PHCheese Member
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Even Hitler loved his dog.

    • #3
  4. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    If we did not think character was destiny why bother teaching it to our children?

    Schindler by the mercy of God found himself able to use his dishonorable skills in a worthy way, he was an exception. He is not the rule. Had more Germans shown good character and virtue Schindler would never have had his opportunity for redemption. So yah character is destiny? Do we think a world filled with nothing but skilled greedy liars would be a good one?

    • #4
  5. Mim526 Member
    Mim526
    @Mim526

    Schindler…that movie I dreaded but felt compelled to watch. I remember coming out of the theater thankful for Spielberg (there’s a destiny for you), able to put human faces and emotions to the horror of 6,000,000 lost lives. Grateful one man had stepped up to the plate in an hour of desperate need.

    My hero is my mom. Forty-six years she worked to make a better life for herself in her later years and her kids (one of them a special needs child) as we came along. Up at 5:15am M-F; evenings and weekends if she had call. Always talking to us, laughing, teaching us by example.

    Hard work, honesty, sacrifice, patience, perseverance, faithfulness, humility, forgiveness, curiosity about the world, love for people and animals and music and art and learning…I saw character before I could even spell the word.

    I think there’s a purpose for every life. Sometimes it’s a challenging career, or saving lives (by the hundreds like a Schindler, on a battlefield somewhere, or at home one at a time). Sometimes it’s putting one foot in front of the other every day, teaching a family by example to love one another and others. Sometimes you’re blessed it’s all of the above.

    • #5
  6. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    The skills needed in warfare and espionage are not the values of peacetime life. The general who can navigate the bureaucracy and get things done on time and under budget, while running an exemplary command staff? He might not be the general you need to take down North Korea. There are numerous examples of this throughout history.

    Character is not destiny. That’s the reason we don’t have the death penalty for every crime. Yesterday’s thief could be tomorrow’s priest.

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Maynard Smith was a miserable little runt of a man possessed of significant issues with authority. Argumentative, arrogant, trouble-prone, a regular human toothache as Jonah Goldberg might describe him — Smith was in no danger of ever being recognized as a team player. He was hauled into court for non-payment of child support. The judge gave him the choice: jail or the Army.

    He was no more fun to be around during basic training either. He picked up the nickname “Snuffy.” Snuffy volunteered for Aerial Gunnery School and was assigned as a ball turret gunner on a B-17. Ball turret gunners are usually short in stature, and there was the added advantage that none of the rest of the crew would have to put up with Snuffy’s nonsense during a typical flight. His first combat mission was … eventful. Enemy fire knocked out the electricity in the aircraft, so Snuffy let himself out of the now immobilized ball turret and got busy.

    Citation:

    For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty. The aircraft of which Sgt. Smith was a gunner was subjected to intense enemy antiaircraft fire and determined fighter airplane attacks while returning from a mission over enemy-occupied continental Europe on 1 May 1943. The airplane was hit several times by antiaircraft fire and cannon shells of the fighter airplanes, 2 of the crew were seriously wounded, the aircraft’s oxygen system shot out, and several vital control cables severed when intense fires were ignited simultaneously in the radio compartment and waist sections. The situation became so acute that 3 of the crew bailed out into the comparative safety of the sea. Sgt. Smith, then on his first combat mission, elected to fight the fire by himself, administered first aid to the wounded tail gunner, manned the waist guns, and fought the intense flames alternately. The escaping oxygen fanned the fire to such intense heat that the ammunition in the radio compartment began to explode, the radio, gun mount, and camera were melted, and the compartment completely gutted. Sgt. Smith threw the exploding ammunition overboard, fought the fire until all the firefighting aids were exhausted, manned the workable guns until the enemy fighters were driven away, further administered first aid to his wounded comrade, and then by wrapping himself in protecting cloth, completely extinguished the fire by hand. This soldier’s gallantry in action, undaunted bravery, and loyalty to his aircraft and fellow crewmembers, without regard for his own personal safety, is an inspiration to the U.S. Armed Forces. 

    When it came time for the ceremony to hang the sky-blue ribbon around his neck that was associated with the above citation, there was a delay. The Army seemed to have mislaid Snuffy. He was eventually found — on KP duty for a discipline issue, for Snuffy Smith was still a miserable little runt of a man possessed of significant issues with authority.

    • #7
  8. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    In my opinion, the old saying, “Great men are rarely good men” is overstated and over-generalized. On the other hand, there are certain circumstances in which you don’t need a good man – you need one nasty SOB. Times like that are often in critical moments in the history of a nation, or in times of great crisis. So that nasty SOB becomes a hero, as he should. But you still wouldn’t invite him over for supper.

    We will always need men like Snuffy Smith. Some of them, at least. The trick is controlling them, and keeping them focused on the task at hand. And to prevent them from driving everybody else crazy.

    • #8
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):
    In my opinion, the old saying, “Great men are rarely good men” is overstated and over-generalized. On the other hand, there are certain circumstances in which you don’t need a good man – you need one nasty SOB. Times like that are often in critical moments in the history of a nation, or in times of great crisis. So that nasty SOB becomes a hero, as he should. But you still wouldn’t invite him over for supper.

    We will always need men like Snuffy Smith. Some of them, at least. The trick is controlling them, and keeping them focused on the task at hand. And to prevent them from driving everybody else crazy.

    The funny thing is that after the electricity went out it would have killed the intercom, and Snuffy was effectively out-of-command. He just ran around doing whatever looked like it needed doing.

    • #9
  10. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    If we did not think character was destiny why bother teaching it to our children?

    We teach our children about character because character is important, and for many of us, our destiny will be because of our character.

    But character is not destiny. Terrible people can do the right thing at the right time and serve the good.

    So we need to teach our children about character but also about the possibility of grace and mercy overcoming human limitations and weakness.

    • #10
  11. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    If we did not think character was destiny why bother teaching it to our children?

    Schindler by the mercy of God found himself able to use his dishonorable skills in a worthy way, he was an exception. He is not the rule. Had more Germans shown good character and virtue Schindler would never have had his opportunity for redemption. So yah character is destiny? Do we think a world filled with nothing but skilled greedy liars would be a good one?

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that character often affects destiny? It’s not good to lie to children, so if we tell them that character is destiny how would they ever trust us on anything else?

    • #11
  12. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    If we did not think character was destiny why bother teaching it to our children?

    Schindler by the mercy of God found himself able to use his dishonorable skills in a worthy way, he was an exception. He is not the rule. Had more Germans shown good character and virtue Schindler would never have had his opportunity for redemption. So yah character is destiny? Do we think a world filled with nothing but skilled greedy liars would be a good one?

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that character often affects destiny? It’s not good to lie to children, so if we tell them that character is destiny how would they ever trust us on anything else?

    Fair points all. I guess the question first should be asked is there such a thing as destiny to begin with. Only then can you ask if anything can affect it and how. The thing is I don’t think much of destiny as a concept, since I don’t buy into predetermination. Thus no one thing destines you for anything, but I would say that good character certainly increases the odds of someone living a good life and doing good things. So because of that I think character is destiny or at least a major contributor to it. That is to the extent destiny is a thing to begin with.

    • #12
  13. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    Fair points all. I guess the question first should be asked is there such a thing as destiny to begin with. Only then can you ask if anything can affect it and how. The thing is I don’t think much of destiny as a concept, since I don’t buy into predetermination. Thus no one thing destines you for anything, but I would say that good character certainly increases the odds of someone living a good life and doing good things. So because of that I think character is destiny or at least a major contributor to it. That is to the extent destiny is a thing to begin with.

    I would agree with most of that.

    • #13
  14. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    I don’t even know what the statement means.

    It is a nice cliche. Didn’t someone write about about not using cliches for political thinking?

    I’d have to know what the person saying it means, in any respect.

    • #14
  15. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    I would say that good character certainly increases the odds of someone living a good life and doing good things.

    I respectfully disagree. I have a friend – a man of good character – who roots for the Michigan Wolverines. This is largely due to how he was raised. His mother bought him a blue & maize t-shirt while he was still in kindergarten. Children’s Protective Services did nothing.

    Anyway, he is a good example of the importance of raising kids well. Even those of exceptional innate character.

    • #15
  16. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    I guess the question first should be asked is there such a thing as destiny to begin with. Only then can you ask if anything can affect it and how. The thing is I don’t think much of destiny as a concept, since I don’t buy into predetermination.

    We claim Character is destiny because our futures are made up by the choices we make today and someone with good character is more likely to make good choices.

    But that is not to say that those with questionable character will never make a good choice or series of choices nor is it to say that someone with good character will always choose wisely.

    We have no sterile lab to say this saying is 100% true. Life is messy and it is true enough to be useful for wise living, but it doesn’t supersede mercy and grace.

    • #16
  17. Mim526 Member
    Mim526
    @Mim526

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    If we did not think character was destiny why bother teaching it to our children?

    We teach our children about character because character is important, and for many of us, our destiny will be because of our character.

    But character is not destiny. Terrible people can do the right thing at the right time and serve the good.

    So we need to teach our children about character but also about the possibility of grace and mercy overcoming human limitations and weakness.

    Well said, @cbtoderakamamatoad. There’s light in people that, barring diminished capacity (e.g., mental illness or handicap), allows us to make individual good — even heroic in cases like Oskar Schindler — choices that benefit others. People of good character hopefully make more good choices than not, but no human makes all good choices all the time. You do something bad or stupid, you make it right as best you can and carry on.

    It’s a slippery slope holding historical figures to today’s social mores or politically correct positions. Louisiana should be able to keep a monument honoring Andrew Jackson for saving New Orleans without rubberstamping either his treatment of the Cherokee or owning slaves. Would we put one up now? Maybe not. But then, the City of New Orleans and the Louisiana Purchase are not being threatened by an invading army either.

    • #17
  18. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Destiny involves many factors, one of which is character. Yes, character can make a difference, but luck can be just as much a contributor to destiny.

    • #18
  19. Ron Selander Member
    Ron Selander
    @RonSelander

    Genesis 50:20. Joseph said to his brothers: “…you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” NKJV

    • #19
  20. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Some psychology studies have shown that overall happiness derives more from personality than from circumstances. How one is prone to interpret and respond to situations is more signficant to one’s mental well-being than the situations themselves.

    On the other hand, see Percival’s story about the usefulness of an onery old cuss. The people with the most drive are often abrasive, but they get ‘er done.

    On the other other hand, we need calm thinkers to slow things down, ease nerves and spats, and reflect on life more deeply than people with no time or care for philosophy.

    Humanity is a body with cells and parts of different nature and focus performing various functions to the good of the whole. We benefit from character variety.

    As with a body, some fail to perform their intended functions or become infected. If a part acts apart from the body, it harms both itself and other parts. There is both common purpose and individual purpose for each member.

    The Lord’s design accounts for our errors and our neglect. Self-improvement and virtue (action in harmony with one’s design) are responsibilities of all people. But each of us has persistent foibles that seem engrained in our characters. However much is by design or by choice, refining character is the central challenge of life.

    Power is made perfect in weakness.

    • #20
  21. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    I reject the concept of Destiny with every fiber of my being.

    We teach character not because their character fulfills their destiny, but because we want our children to be and do good.

    Any of us can be good or evil. We make our own futures, using the Free Will that G-d bestowed on us.

    • #21
  22. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Percival (View Comment):
    Maynard Smith was a miserable little runt of a man possessed of significant issues with authority. Argumentative, arrogant, trouble-prone, a regular human toothache as Jonah Goldberg might describe him — Smith was in no danger of ever being recognized as a team player. He was hauled into court for non-payment of child support. The judge gave him the choice: jail or the Army.

    He was no more fun to be around during basic training either. He picked up the nickname “Snuffy.” Snuffy volunteered for Aerial Gunnery School and was assigned as a ball turret gunner on a B-17. Ball turret gunners are usually short in stature, and there was the added advantage that none of the rest of the crew would have to put up with Snuffy’s nonsense during a typical flight. His first combat mission was … eventful. Enemy fire knocked out the electricity in the aircraft, so Snuffy let himself out of the now immobilized ball turret and got busy.

    Citation:

    For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty. The aircraft of which Sgt. Smith was a gunner was subjected to intense enemy antiaircraft fire and determined fighter airplane attacks while returning from a mission over enemy-occupied continental Europe on 1 May 1943. [Snipped for space] Sgt. Smith threw the exploding ammunition overboard, fought the fire until all the firefighting aids were exhausted, manned the workable guns until the enemy fighters were driven away, further administered first aid to his wounded comrade, and then by wrapping himself in protecting cloth, completely extinguished the fire by hand. This soldier’s gallantry in action, undaunted bravery, and loyalty to his aircraft and fellow crewmembers, without regard for his own personal safety, is an inspiration to the U.S. Armed Forces.

    When it came time for the ceremony to hang the sky-blue ribbon around his neck that was associated with the above citation, there was a delay. The Army seemed to have mislaid Snuffy. He was eventually found — on KP duty for a discipline issue, for Snuffy Smith was still a miserable little runt of a man possessed of significant issues with authority.

    Bless. The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner, by Randall Jarrell, is a poem I’ve always remembered (loved is not the proper word). But it struck a nerve the very first time I read it, and really never really left me.

    As for whether character is destiny, I don’t know, although I tend to think that sometimes the aspects of a person’s character that we think of as troublesome may be those that lead them to greatness, or at least, goodness in the end. After all, minds can change, and so can hearts. I’m glad to live in a world and subscribe to a belief that allows that to happen.

    So, perhaps my answer is ,”Yes. Character is destiny, but it takes a lifetime to develop, and it doesn’t always go as we expect.”

    I do know that, often, my best employees were those who thought on their feet, who could improvise and who occasionally bent the rules (sometimes, even my rules, perish the thought), and who didn’t fear standing up to authority (even mine!) on occasion. I also know that I encouraged them to do that.

    So I have some heart for old Snuffy, whose character does seem to have been his destiny.

    • #22
  23. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    iWe (View Comment):
    I reject the concept of Destiny with every fiber of my being.

    [….]

    Any of us can be good or evil. We make our own futures, using the Free Will that G-d bestowed on us.

    The truth is a balance. The reason we are now plagued by gender delusions and such nonsense is because the good value of self-direction has been corrupted into self-creation. We cannot completely define ourselves, as progressive dogma proposes. We each begin with natures, roles, and circumstances from which the free will God has granted may flourish.

    It is harmful to err in either direction — to believe that all is fated or to believe that all is within our power and authority. The truth is that we must both understand what is given to us and push beyond our comforts. We are not slaves and we are not gods.

    • #23
  24. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):
    I reject the concept of Destiny with every fiber of my being.

    [….]

    Any of us can be good or evil. We make our own futures, using the Free Will that G-d bestowed on us.

    The truth is a balance. The reason we are now plagued by gender delusions and such nonsense is because the good value of self-direction has been corrupted into self-creation. We cannot completely define ourselves, as progressive dogma proposes. We each begin with natures, roles, and circumstances from which the free will God has granted may flourish.

    It is harmful to err in either direction — to believe that all is fated or to believe that all is within our power and authority. The truth is that we must both understand what is given to us and push beyond our comforts. We are not slaves and we are not gods.

    To like this again. And again.

    • #24
  25. Nick H Coolidge
    Nick H
    @NickH

    It’s all relative. Schindler may have been dishonest and corrupt, but any man except for the most depraved would be almost a saint compared to the evil of the Holocaust. Hopefully most of us will never encounter such dire circumstances.

    In any case, Schindler’s poor character isn’t what enabled him to save the people he did. He had talents which he used selfishly at first then nobly later in life. That change is what makes his story notable. He’s the exception to the rule. Character isn’t destiny, but it’s a pretty good predictor of future behavior.

    • #25
  26. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    iWe (View Comment):
    I reject the concept of Destiny with every fiber of my being.

    We teach character not because their character fulfills their destiny, but because we want our children to be and do good.

    Any of us can be good or evil. We make our own futures, using the Free Will that G-d bestowed on us.

    Well said!

    • #26
  27. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    Re: comment # 1 and comment # 2

    I think there’s a lot of truth in these two comments. And focusing on that truth is also a great antidote to depression and self pity.

    Re: the post

    Moore vs Jones has me asking myself another question: Who does more damage to all of us: an impulsive, venial person in the service of a good cause (say, Schindler) or a virtuous, self controlled, honorable person in the service of an evil cause (say, Robert E. Lee or, better yet, Rommel) ?

    • #27
  28. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Nick H (View Comment):
    It’s all relative. Schindler may have been dishonest and corrupt, but any man except for the most depraved would be almost a saint compared to the evil of the Holocaust. Hopefully most of us will never encounter such dire circumstances.

    In any case, Schindler’s poor character isn’t what enabled him to save the people he did. He had talents which he used selfishly at first then nobly later in life. That change is what makes his story notable. He’s the exception to the rule. Character isn’t destiny, but it’s a pretty good predictor of future behavior.

    When I think of Schindler, I’m not comparing him to Nazis. I’m comparing him to someone like my husband. So assume my husband was not a Nazi (and the more and more I understand about human nature I don’t take that as a given. We’d all like to think of ourselves as resisters but the reality is it would probably not be the case for many of us).

    My husband can’t tell you he had Special K for breakfast when he really had GrapeNuts. I’m pretty sure he’d put his life on the line to protect his family; I also know that if a bribe or a lie was needed to protect his family he would be clueless about how to go about it and he would probably get us all killed.

    • #28
  29. Nick H Coolidge
    Nick H
    @NickH

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Nick H (View Comment):
    It’s all relative. Schindler may have been dishonest and corrupt, but any man except for the most depraved would be almost a saint compared to the evil of the Holocaust. Hopefully most of us will never encounter such dire circumstances.

    In any case, Schindler’s poor character isn’t what enabled him to save the people he did. He had talents which he used selfishly at first then nobly later in life. That change is what makes his story notable. He’s the exception to the rule. Character isn’t destiny, but it’s a pretty good predictor of future behavior.

    When I think of Schindler, I’m not comparing him to Nazis. I’m comparing him to someone like my husband. So assume my husband was not a Nazi (and the more and more I understand about human nature I don’t take that as a given. We’d all like to think of ourselves as resisters but the reality is it would probably not be the case for many of us).

    My husband can’t tell you he had Special K for breakfast when he really had GrapeNuts. I’m pretty sure he’d put his life on the line to protect his family; I also know that if a bribe or a lie was needed to protect his family he would be clueless about how to go about it and he would probably get us all killed.

    If I’m understanding you correctly, your husband lacks the ability to tell a lie and get away with it. The ability to lie is a skill, one that can be used for good or bad purposes. I think it’s safe to assume that your husband wouldn’t use the skill for bad reasons even if it was one he possessed, but simply having the talent to deceive doesn’t mean someone is a bad person. There are people who get paid a lot of money to tell lies and have them believed. We call them actors. (I’m certainly not saying that all actors have good character, but that’s neither here nor there.) What matters is not the skill but how it is used.

    • #29
  30. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Nick H (View Comment):
    …but simply having the talent to deceive doesn’t mean someone is a bad person. There are people who get paid a lot of money to tell lies and have them believed. We call them actors. (I’m certainly not saying that all actors have good character, but that’s neither here nor there.) What matters is not the skill but how it is used.

    ?

    • #30

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