We live and work in a time of moral decline. For instance, if you type “cheating on a test” into Google search, an 18-step instructional manual shoots up from WikiHow. It also says something about our culture when Trust Me, I’m Lying, A Playbook of the Dark Arts of Exploiting the Media is a four-star-rated book on Amazon.com. But let’s face it, when all the dust settles and we are just about to throw in the towel giving up on human nature altogether, character rises to the top. Everyone loves it when good wins. In Charles Dickens', A Tale of Two Cities, something springs to life inside of us when Sydney Carton steps into Charles Darnay’s shoes and goes to the guillotine in his place — his ill-spent life redeemed by his selfless act. Similarly, nobody roots for Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter, and no one wants Cal Hockley to win the girl in 1997’s Titanic. But we are drawn like moths to a flame to a person of character.
Why is Abraham Lincoln one of the best-loved presidents who ever lived? The answer: his character. He had a troubled wife and a difficult marriage. He lost three of his four sons while they were still children, with only one son reaching adulthood. Yet “seven score and four years ago," Abraham Lincoln stood on the U.S. Capitol steps and stated that North and South alike must suffer for the sin of slavery.
"If God wills that (the war) continue until ... every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, so it still must be said 'The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether,'" Lincoln said — quoting the Psalms — in his famous Second Inaugural Address.
Lincoln's "Sermon on the Mount," as his 1865 address has been called, has been "deemed the most religiously sophisticated presidential speech in American history." Yet it was delivered by a largely self-educated backwoodsman who became a lawyer despite his limited childhood education and who, though he grew up in a religious family, never joined a church. This man led the country in the abolishment of one of the greatest travesties in human history. Why? Because it was the right thing to do.
So, even when things are tough and it would be easy to fudge the truth or to compromise a conviction, be a man (or woman) of character. Someone may even remember it 200 years from now. —Kathy Shertzer is office manager at DuKate Remodeling, in Franklin, Ind.