The letter A is a character. So is the letter B. It used to be that Characters were one among many things, but somehow as time has passed character has simply come to mean our qualities, our characteristics, the whole person. Bear with me. I want to show you how damaging our sloppy definition of character is.

Traits

The older understanding of character allowed for diversity. An alphabet has 26 characters and no one confuses an A with a Z. But George over there is more than 26 characters and so is everyone else. George is a spectrum, from the most egregious to the most wonderful and good.

To say George is a nasty character is fixing him as one thing and denying him the capacity to change.

Applying character traits to Human Beings is as common as the judgments we make from dawn to dark, but these fall under the rule of Jesus that we are not to judge lest we are judged. Someone who thinks I am an acerbic and small-minded person is catching me at a time when I happen to be acerbic and small-minded, but it misses the part of me that is a comedian, or a singer, a savant, or simply angelic.

Reductionism

Characterizing people is a negative activity. It misunderstands existence. If anything, we are so anxious to fix people one way or another that we ignore our worst sin. That is our failure to really look at each person and find the talent that is unique to everyone on Earth.

There are over seven billion of us – persons with undiscovered qualities, talents, abilities, and insights. We allow this reductionism to narrow our politics to a series of judgmental clichés. We need to lighten up and see the extent to which we remain unknown to each other.

Serious

There is a deadly serious side to characterization.

It is called lynching. It is called hate crimes. It is called class war. It is called anything that suggests we have either the license or capacity to make the sorts of judgments that lead to these destructive actions.

I have always been an enemy of characterization. I call it out when I can. It is an insult that aids and abets the charades we allow to substitute for genuinely helpful procedures to assist all people rather than a privileged few.

Diversity is the norm

Triadic Philosophy promotes ethics and aesthetics as the two stages of thoughtful living. It means we consider our actions. We submit them to the test of tolerance, the standards of helping which include education and enablement, and the discipline of democracy. Democracy means accepting and working with the diversity that is all around us. It is the key to a universal way of living.

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