A list of character traits should never be fettered by the whims of a single group. Men and women who gather and reach a consensus as to what moral values to include may very well satisfy themselves, but they can mislead others. Restriction of a list of character traits to consensus ethical values must assume that the group of individuals gathered to discuss and reach that consensus fully represented all of humanity. It must assume, too, that those individuals possessed infallible understanding of high moral values. Binding yourself to their consensus binds you to both assumptions, and leaves you with a deficient list of character traits.

Consensus at Work

A list of character traits was drawn up by consensus at a U.S. conference some years ago. The conference was convened in part for the purpose of establishing a list of character traits that would be used in public schools and other institutions across the United States. A brief look at that convention will help us understand the problem with the product it created.

  • Numbers. If you said many people should have been invited to such a conference, you would be right. From a population of over 254 million (at that time), those who convened the meeting should have invited a sizable number of representatives. Sadly, they limited their conference to a mere thirty (30) participants.

    The people of the United States usually insist on fair representation. The U.S. Senate, for example, consists of 100 representatives – more than three times the number at the conference. Our House of Representatives numbered 435 at that time – nearly fifteen times conference numbers. Can a symposium that so greatly fails to grant fair representation be trusted?

  • Affiliations. Perhaps you think a conference that would issue a consensus list of character traits should represent a broad cross-section of the nation’s many varied groups. The roster included almost exclusively, however, career educators, government employees, and representatives of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Other church groups, other religions, private schools, blue collar affiliates, and many more were absent. Huge population segments were denied a voice. Can a conference that ignores most branches of the population reach a representative consensus?

A list of character traits drawn up by thirty people cannot possibly represent the high moral values held by the population at large.

Flawed

The list of character traits coming out of that conference is flawed. Vital moral qualities were ignored while non-moral qualities were awarded positions.

Here are four of many high moral values they snubbed.

  • Love. One of the greatest flaws is the disregard for love. Most religions place love at the top of a list of character traits. Love is a vital moral quality. People who exercise love sacrifice self interests to do what is paramount to the well-being of others – but love was not included.
  • Humility. When humility was not selected, pride was added by default. Pride is not a high moral value, but humility is. Humility holds a realistic self-esteem, and yet acts consciously to take a place lower than others.
  • Generosity. Conference attendees failed to give generosity a spot on their list of character traits. Did they not believe that the giving of self and resources to do good for people in need is an essential quality?
  • Meekness. When we understand our own worth and power, and then refuse to exercise our rights over others, we exhibit a moral value that should be on every list of character traits. It was not on this one.

    The convention not only omitted vital moral values, but inserted non-moral values. Only six over-arching qualities were included. Referred to as “core ethical values,” this handful included five valid and one invalid quality, each with sub points.

A list of character traits that awards one sixth of its space to the following is surely not of the highest quality!

  • Citizenship. This is not a moral issue, no matter how much regal purple the state wears. Corrupt, immoral politicians fill the offices of every government, but by the conference’s definition, all of them can be said to exercise citizenship. The following sub points show this.
  • Stay informed. How does this phrase merit a place on a list of character traits? Staying informed is not moral good.
  • Vote. Dare we call the act of voting a high moral value? Surely we should not teach children that voting is, in and of itself, moral good.
  • Protect the Environment. This politically charged topic motivates both good and evil. Along with the good, much corruption has been discovered under the mantle of environmental protection. Protection of the environment is not a moral value and does not belong on a list of character traits.
  • Get involved in community affairs. Involvement can be sought for good or evil ends. Community involvement is not a quality of high moral values.

Conclusion

A list of character traits unfettered by the restrictions of man will include all that is truly good and nothing that is not itself good!