How to Know Someone’s Character
We are surrounded by people and so at some point in our lives, we find ourselves wondering how we can truly know someone’s character.
Who Are You Voting For?
My ten-year-old and his classmates have caught World Cup fever.
“Who you voting for?” he asks.
Anyone not supporting his team gets a disdainful look and a scoff. “Why are you voting for that team?”
Some of the responses people give as their reasons for cheering for a particular team are amusing.
Persons choose teams because they like the colors or the language. Some choose a team because their father supported it and the legacy had been passed on. A few persons are undecided, choosing whichever team looks most likely to win.
One young man quickly changed the team he was supporting when he realized that his teacher liked another team. Every day after school he diligently checks the scores for the day’s matches. He’s learning to quote the statistics on various football players.
Related: What’s Your Legacy?
As I watch reactions to World Cup 2018, I find myself asking another question:
“How do we choose the “right” people to support?”
In I Samuel 16 a new king was to be appointed. When the handsome, well-built Eliab stood before Samuel, he was sure that he was looking at the next king. But that was not the case. All these centuries later we still judge people based on the superficial.
What is the better way for us to tell someone’s character?
See As God Sees
When Samuel saw Eliab, his thoughts were:
“Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord” (1 Samuel 16:6 NIV).
In response God replied:
“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
I know what you’re thinking, “How on earth am I going to know someone’s heart?”
4 Ways to Tell A Person’s Character
1. Observe their behavior. The way a person acts says a lot about them. What are the things that they do consistently? Our actions will eventually reveal our core values and the principles we live our lives by.
2. Listen to the words they speak. This part can be a bit tricky because there are persons who are good at saying one thing and meaning the opposite. However, we can still get a good idea about someone by listening to what they say especially in unguarded moments. Does their speech match their actions?
Related: Does the Inside Match the Outside
The Bible tells us that “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45 NIV).
3. Look at other people’s reactions. The best way to know someone’s character is to look at how they react in varied situations. This is especially true for someone that you have just met or have had limited interaction with. How do the people who they have known for a long period of time treat them?
4. Look at how they treat the people close to them. How do they treat others? Do they treat people with respect? The way we treat others is a good indicator of our character.
How to Know Someone’s Character: A Case Study
We see these elements played out in Eliab’s life. At the end of 1 Samuel chapter 16, David is anointed as the future king of Israel. Shortly after, his three oldest brothers went to join Saul’s army in the war against the Philistines.
Concerned about his sons’ welfare, Jesse sends David with supplies hoping to get reassurance that his sons were doing well. We read the account in 1 Samuel 17:12-37.
David enters the Israelite camp to see the mighty warriors cowering before the giant Goliath. Curious, he starts asking questions. He couldn’t understand why the Israelite army was not attacking the enemy. He hears a fantastic tale that the king is offering great rewards to the man who defeats the giant.
I can imagine that as a shepherd, the possibility of great riches and exemption from taxes was an attractive lure for David. Understandably, he wanted to know more.
Related: When I Can’t Have My Way
And then Eliab shows up:
When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked,
“Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”
“Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” (1 Samuel 17:28-29 NIV)
As we evaluate Eliab’s response we have to ask a few questions:
- Why was he angry?
- Why did he feel the need to verbally attack his younger brother?
And then we hear David’s response:
“Now what have I done?”
I think this speaks to a lifetime of being accused and having to justify his behavior. Thankfully, David had learned by this time how to ignore his older brother.
Related: Quit Like King David
In this short account, we see Eliab:
1. Getting angry over something that wasn’t worth getting angry about. David wasn’t even talking to him. And there was nothing in his conversation to cause offense. So why was Eliab taking it so personally?
2. Saying things about David that were untrue. He accused David of being conceited, idle and having a “wicked heart”.
Someone with a wicked heart, would not have left his assigned task to go to a battlefield to bring supplies to his brothers. Jesse had 8 sons – that means he had 4 other sons he could have sent instead of David.
A son with a “wicked heart” could just have easily have agreed to do as Jesse requested and taken the supplies for himself. He could then have waited some time and “returned” to his father with made-up news.
An idle person would not have done the things David had done. An idle man would have abandoned the sheep at the first sign of trouble. He wouldn’t have fought lions and bears to defend them (1 Samuel 17:34-37). And an idle person definitely would not have volunteered to fight a giant.
3. The interaction between David and Eliab was not good. Eliab was unkind to David. He treated him harshly in front of a group of soldiers, I believe for the purpose of discrediting him.
I don’t know, maybe Eliab’s ego was bruised because as the soldier, his little brother the shepherd, should not have had to see him defeated before the enemy.
David seemed to have gotten used to Eliab’s unfair treatment (most likely from previous interactions). He knew his brother’s character and had become indifferent. David’s reaction was to turn his back on his older brother and continue with his inquiries.
Samuel, who had had limited exposure to Eliab, judged him based on his appearance. Had the choice of the next king rested with Samuel, Eliab would have been the next ruler of Israel. Can you imagine the turmoil that he would have put the nation in? But you see Samuel, like many of us, had not learned how to judge a person’s character. He looked at the external which he thought provided all the information he needed to know someone’s character.
A Warning & An Admonition
This is a warning for us to be cautious about how we judge the people around us. I know, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” As human beings, we go through a natural process of trying to determine the motives of the persons we come in contact with.
We have to learn that how a person behaves or speaks in our presence may not reflect their true character.
It’s also an admonition for us to be true to ourselves in our interactions with others. Our words and behavior should reflect the image of who we are in Christ.
Have you ever been misled by someone’s words or actions? What lessons did you learn from that experience?
Do your actions reflect Jehovah? Are you being a true light bearer? What can you do to be a better light bearer?
Linking up at #CoffeeForYourHeart