In our continued study of Edmund Burke’s Natural Aristocracy we have reached a point where the title can be vague, but the lesson is not. Character is the essential qualities that make a man or woman worthy of any endeavor of honor.
To be formed to the greatest degree of vigilance, foresight, and circumspection, in a state of things in which no fault is committed with impunity and the slightest mistakes draw on the most ruinous consequences.
There are times in life where all our focus, effort and energy are required to maintain order in a situation that teeters on the edge of chaos. Men who would stand in the gap, against the difficulties, must be men who have such capacity of mind and body to endure and succeed.
Vigilance, foresight and circumspection may at times seem common. Sure we all look ahead every now and again, but to lead and command requires a heightened development of those qualities. These traits are usually developed to high degree in men destined for leadership in dangerous times. Men such as Sir Winston Churchill, who was among the few who warned of the dangers of Nazi Germany. When war was in the air, he was the man they called to become Prime Minister.
True character is best revealed in times of crisis. It is during those times that essential character is needed and shines, but at a high cost. One error, one fault, one mistake can bring the ruin of the cause you lead. For that reason the mantle of leadership must be given to one who has the qualities necessary for the fight, who has both caution and energy.
To be led to a guarded and regulated conduct, from a sense that you are considered as an instructor of your fellow-citizens in their highest concerns, and that you act as a reconciler between God and man.
When we think of great leaders and great men there are several names that spring to mind: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Sir Winston Churchill, FDR, etc. These men understood the necessity of their myth. Their reputation was a banner to the cause of their time.
Burke warns that as a leader, as an aristocrat, your character must be above reproach. He has taught us already the value of Reputation before in a previous lesson, and he reiterates why it is important here.
There are two rules about character that spring to mind.
15. Your character cannot be essentially injured except by your own acts.
16. If anyone speaks evil of you, let your life be such that none will believe him.
Push Yourself – Your character will not improve unless you spend time developing it, strengthening your abilities to handle difficult situations. This doesn’t happen overnight, and is not for the faint of heart. The only way to improve under such situations is to purposefully place yourself in them, to gradually become better able to handle the strain.
Remember – Keep what’s at stake in your mind. It provides an incentive for both caution and boldness, preventing you from taking foolish actions and from wasting time in lethargy.
Guard Your Conduct – Your reputation is all you really have in the world, and losing it won’t only affect you. Behave in such a manner that you are worthy of the trust of others.
Teach – Be willing to instruct others. Your character and foresight are worth little if buried in yourself. As a man of high character your advice and councel will be sought by others. Teach them the secrets of character and success if they wish to learn.