Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Company They Keep

I do not much like blanket statements, but I’ll make an exception for this one: your success in life will depend in very large part on how good you are as a judge of character.

In other words, the therapy culture has gotten it wrong. If you want to succeed, you need to be judgmental, to be very judgmental, especially in choosing your friends, your associates, and your spouse.

I wrote about this topic before, two years ago, when I joined those who were arguing that we would do well to judge the character of then-candidate Barack Obama in relation to the company he kept.

Whatever you thought or felt about Obama, however much his dulcet tones moved you, you would have had a better idea of his character by considering how close he was to Jeremiah Wright.

I was reminded of this point when reading Susan Walsh’s post about the same topic today. Link here.

Walsh has dedicated her site to issues of dating and hooking up. To her credit she continues to try to explain to young people that dating is a better option than hooking up.

Her post yesterday addressed the problem of judging the character of men who maintain friendships with cads, with men who use women for mere sexual pleasure.

No one approves of anyone using anyone else for anything, no less free sexual favors.

And yet, the hookup culture exists, to the point where it appears to have supplanted the dating culture, and the reason is that women allow it to exist.

If all college girls decided tomorrow to pull a Lysistrata, the hookup culture would vanish. When it comes to dating and mating, women are very largely in charge. Most men are barely aware of what is going on in this realm.

I have my own suspicions about how and why the hookup culture persists. Whatever the causes, as long as coeds are handing out free love, college guys will want in on the action.

Yet, these free goodies are not being handed out equitably. Some guys are getting more than their fair share; others are not getting anything at all.

Which, of course, leads us to question whether or not there should not be a better way to redistribute sexual favors… in the interest of social justice.

Women should do some thinking about why they have allowed themselves to be tricked into treating their intimacy like trick-or-treat candy, to be given away to whomever has the best costume.

Given these extreme circumstances, how are we to judge the character of men who are cads or players. If a woman invites a man to have sex with her, is he a bad person if he agrees? He probably knows that if he refuses he will be hurting her feelings.

So, let’s say that she takes an initiative, and he responds. Now, let’s add that they have a pretty good time and they keep hooking up. She might be the instigator; he might be the one making the booty calls.

They do not date; they do not really have a relationship; but they are having a pretty good time. Until the day when he finds someone better. Is he a cad for playing the game that she has designed and not knowing that she sees their hookups as something more than he wants or has ever agreed to?

In any case, judging character is not the easiest thing to do.

As Walsh reminds us, we choose our friends freely. With the exception of our spouses, we do not choose our families.

People do better if they judge our character more by the friends we choose than by siblings or parents we did not choose.

I cannot tell you whether it is still common practice, but in olden days no one was hired for a high executive position until the hiring committee met the candidate's spouse.

The rationale: your free choice of a spouse offers critical insights into your character.

And that means that when you are at the point in your life when you are choosing a mate, you should again defy the therapy culture and should not put the entire emphasis on whether or not the two of you are really in love.

The culture seems to have taught us that being really in love will solve everything. You cannot receive a more misleading message.

Your subjective feelings for the other person matter, but objective judgment should also weigh in your decision-making scales.

You can make such a judgment by looking at the friends he or she has chosen, the company he or she keeps, and then, to how your friends and family react to him or her.

Next, you should ask yourself whether he or she is trustworthy, loyal, responsible and reliable... based on everyday behavior. As the old ethical saw would have it, anyone can run into a burning building to save a child, but only people with the best character always keep their word and always show up on time.


The Ghost said...

This reminds me of something I picked up years ago reading a science fiction series (The Dorsai) ...
Basically the idea was that a man could mask his true nature from you thru deceit and lies but would not be able to cover up the true nature of the people he surrounds himself with.
So if someone surrounds himself with liars for example but presents himself as truthful you can bet he is a liar as well.

Susan Walsh said...

Great post, Stuart! I agree that we tend to attach a negative connotation to judging others, but it's an inevitable by-product of being principled. Thanks so much for the link!

Cappy said...

just mention primitive cultures, modern art, or civil rights and you're in like Flynn

Eric Stratton, Animal House

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: The Ghost
RE: Your Premise.... at odds with deep cover agents, e.g., the fellow who spent 4 years hanging around neo-nazis just to get the 'goods' on their leader.

It's likely to be applicable with the relationships described herein, but not in all instances.



Chuck Pelto said...

TO: All
RE: Long Ago and Not-Too-Far Away....

....used to be that parents chose their daughter's mates.

Why do you think that was?

Three guesses. Stuart touched on some salient points vis-a-vis what goes on today.


[Who can find a virtuous woman......]

Chuck Pelto said...

P.S. As I've mentioned in other threads on this blog....

....Maybe those old 'coots' weren't so 'stupid' after all. [Note: Search on DIA (Denver International Airport) and how all those young 'smart' folk succeeded in building an international airport in 'tornado alley' of Colorado, over the remonstrations of the old folk who lived in the area for decades.]

Thinking further on it, it's all so much 'projection', telling old folk they don't know what they're talking about.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks, Chuck. That's an important aspect of the point I was trying to make.

We are happy to allow young people to choose their mates, but that does not mean that the choice should either ignore or defy the opinion of their elders.

After all, when a child gets married the new spouse becomes a member of the family, and it is not unreasonable to think that the family should have a say in the matter.

The same principle applies to friends, because when you marry someone your spouse will become part of your social world. Surely, your friends should have something of a say in who they want to be part of their world.

And elders are less often blinded by true love, thus, they can provide an objective, adult appraisal of how the intended spouse might look to the outside world and what his or her prospects are.

At the least, we must understand that parents, despite what Freud and Co. have pretended, want the best for their children and have the greatest investment in their children's happiness. Shouldn't their opinion be thoroughly respected.