In my book The Power of Character, Dr. Laura Schlessinger writes that her radio show didn’t become a success until she abandoned the nonjudgmental strategy of the traditional psychologist/family counselor and began to challenge, chastise, and encourage her listeners to think of their behavior in terms of right and wrong. Believing that we’re all obligated to discern and honor moral boundaries and ethical principles, she popularized discussion of conscience and character as personal obligations, not abstract concepts.
As a law professor, I felt a similar need to distance myself from the “Who am I to judge?” legalistic perspective taught in law school in favor of a more complex outlook that included moral judgment. Sure, clients may prefer nonjudgmental advice focusing on what works rather than what’s right and patients in counseling may prefer talking about feeling good rather than being good, but universal standards of right and wrong cannot be ignored.
The middle ground between self-righteous finger-wagging moralists who scold and condemn everyone who lives by different standards and the “whatever works for you” relativists with no moral backbone at all is found by understanding that “Your right to swing your arm ends at the tip of my nose.”
In other words, a person’s need for happiness or freedom does not justify endangering or injuring others. Thus, if the concept of character is to mean anything, we should judge and disapprove of untrustworthy, disrespectful, irresponsible, unfair, and unkind conduct.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.