Extremes in Good Character
by Ron Kurtus (revised 26 January 2012)
Exhibiting positive or good character traits are beneficial to you in that they help you achieve your goals, enhance relationships with other people, and be accepted in a group. However, going to the extreme with good character can actually result in a negative effect, similar to the consequences of having a poor character trait.
Character traits are usually described as positive and negative. Typical positive or good character traits are to be courageous, generous or honest. But it is possible to be "too good" and take positive character to an extreme.
Often, a person that has extremely positive character traits can actually create negative results. Sometimes extreme traits are a result of foolishness or obsession.
Questions you may have include:
- What are extreme personal traits?
- What is extreme good social character?
- What can happen with following rules to an extreme?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Extreme personal traits
Personal character traits relate to your attitude toward obstacles or challenges in achieving a goal. Positive or good traits improve the chances of success, while negative traits often assure failure or disappointment. Extreme personal character traits do not necessarily enhance success but can often cause failure due to some other issues.
Although it is good to be courageous, being overly courageous may be somewhat foolhardy, and you may take unnecessary risks that could result in loss, injury, or even death.
John was a courageous risk-taker. If he believed in something, he wasn't afraid to take a chance.
Harry convinced John that investing in his start-up business was a sure way to make huge profits. Although others warned John that it wasn't a good idea, he believed in Harry and in the business. So he invested a large amount of money in the enterprise.
Unfortunately, within a year, the business was bankrupt. John was too much of a risk-taker in this case, since he lost most of his money.
Being determined in seeking to achieve your goal is an admirable trait, compared to someone who is easily discouraged.
But if your determination is so extreme that it becomes stubbornness, you may not make adjustments in your goals and plan, when on the wrong path. This extreme trait can lead to a more severe failure than it would for a person who gives up near the beginning.
An organized person has an advantage in achieving a goal over one who is disorganized. But if you are too organized, your focus is not on the goal but on organizing.
Jennie was always very neat and clean. She also looked after her health. But her concern for cleanliness and health started to go to an extreme. She would never eat in a restaurant for fear of getting germs from the cooks or servers. She sterilized everything in her house.
Jennie’s positive character trait of cleanliness now became an extreme trait, which hindered her from enjoying her life.
You should have good personal character traits, but they should not be to an extreme.
Extreme social traits
Social character traits relate to your attitudes toward other people and their needs and feelings. Good social traits improve your chances of successful business dealings and relationships with other people. Negative traits usually result in people not wanting to deal or associate with you. In some cases, people will even seek revenge.
One extreme positive social character trait is being overly concerned about helping other people. It can result in those you want to help actually being turned off by your actions. Or you can help one group at the expense of another.
People like to know that the other person tells the truth. But if you are extremely truthful, you can sometimes hurt the other person.
Andrew prided himself on being extremely honest and truthful. When his 8-year old niece, Tasha, showed him a drawing she done in school, Andrew truthfully told her, "That isn't a very good drawing, compared to what the other children your age have done."
Of course, Tasha felt bad and decided not to do any more drawings.
Wouldn't it have been better to distorting the truth and compliment the child on the drawing? Or perhaps say nothing about it. Although a person can be extremely honest, he or she can also be unintentionally hurtful.
It is best not to be extreme in your social character traits.
Extreme cultural traits
Cultural character concerns following the rules or laws of the government, culture or religion. Positive traits result in being considered a good person by the group and in not being punished for your actions. Punishment can involve being put in jail, banished from your cultural group, or the threat of being sent to Hell by your God.
Some people become too faithful to their cultural rules and traditions that they don't fit into normal society. Others become so devout toward their religions that they do not tolerate those who do not follow their interpretation of the religious laws completely.
Having extreme good cultural character often results in moral or ethical dilemmas. Nothing in life is simply black and white. Going beyond normal behavior can result in doing harm to the group or to you.
In the 1970s, several peaceful protests of the war in Vietnam got out of control when the pacifists started throwing stones at the police, breaking windows and tipping over cars.
Later, one group of anti-war pacifists set off a bomb at a University of Wisconsin research laboratory, killing an innocent janitor. Several of the people in this group were caught and sent to prison for the crime.
Following the rules to an extreme can be a problem. But the decision about which rules to follow can cause a dilemma.
Typical positive or good character traits are to be courageous, generous, or honest, as well as obeying the laws. But it is possible to be "too good" and take good character to an extreme.
Being too courageous, too helpful, or too adherent to the laws can result in negative consequences.
Be good, but also use common sense
Resources and references
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Extremes in Good Character