Mistaking Attractive Traits for Character

Attractive Traits

We naturally gravitate toward folks with attractive traits in their personalities. Friendliness, likeability, charm, and charisma are just a few of such traits. And while these qualities can certainly accompany good character, they’re not necessarily a sign of it. Sadly, however, too many of us mistake these personality attributes for decency of character.

You can find other articles on this topic. (See, for example: Likeability Does Not Necessarily Reflect Good Character .) And I talk about this on the most recent Character Matters podcast, too. But I know from experience that I can’t stress the point enough.

I’ve counseled hundreds of individuals who found themselves in troubled relationships because they mistook attractive traits for character. And these folks also often didn’t know themselves well enough to realize what was drawing them to someone else. Maybe it was the attention they got. Maybe it was the affirmation they felt. To be sure, these things can feel good. And they’re traits folks with natural charm and charisma often possess. But none of these things are reliable marks of character integrity. In fact, these traits are not infrequently present in the most pathological characters.

Just as folks with attractive traits can have bad character, fairly decent folks can lack attractive traits. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful of what you’re really looking for in a relationship. If you involve yourself with someone based solely on their attractive qualities, you run many risks. It’s much safer to bet on character. Still, you have to know what to look for. And that’s just one of the many reasons I wrote Essentials for the Journey.

The Core of Character

The core of good character is the capacity to love. And you can find many articles on the blog to help you discern what genuine love is all about. (See, for example: Things That Seem Like Love But Aren’t.) I write about this so often because in our times, grasping the true nature of love seems harder than ever. Moreover, If we don’t know how to show it to ourselves, we can’t possibly discern when someone else is truly displaying it.

The Bigger Picture

The character crisis affects every aspect of our lives. And sometimes the impact of bad character is monumental. In an upcoming interview and online seminar, I discuss the implications of allowing to folks of highly questionable character to lead or govern us. If this topic interests you, you might want to join the discussion. You can register for the event (airing March 19, 2023) using this link.

5 thoughts on “Mistaking Attractive Traits for Character

  1. For those of you that know my history per this site, I did have a discussion with my daughter that has shocked me, but makes sense.
    We’ve had a rough relationship, toxic, for the past several years. My X husband, her father, is what I’d call a malignant narcissist.
    She came to me upset speaking of a coworker, a man, who was teary eyes telling her about how his college student daughter talks to him poorly, like he’s bothering her if he calls to chat, and that she’ll only be pleasant when she asks for money. This struck a cord with my daughter, realizing how actions hurt others. She began thinking of the way she speaks to me.
    She said nobody should be treated like that, and that she’s sorry.
    She went on to state that I was involved in her triangulation with her father. She so wanted him to accept her and love her, she said she started treating me like he did so that he’d accept her. She was crying and apologizing. I was shocked. I didn’t really have many words. I did say that it’s too bad those years could have been good ones had she not done that, that that was a lot of wasted years. I said I accept her apology and I don’t want to live in the past, but to go forward.
    Her acts were deliberately mean to me. I’m glad I know the reasoning behind it (although really distored and disturbing), but it gives me hope that maybe she’s not an evil person deep down, but a troubled one, trying to navigate her way. She’s been studying narcissism through a website and I think she’s making progress, and maybe our relationship actually stands a chance of improving.

    1. Glad to hear it Lucy. Hopefully it keeps going in that direction, for you and her. My grandaughter used to treat me as my daughter did so she didn’t incure the wrath of her Mom. I wouldn’t call my grandaughter a narcissist but my daughter has some qualities of a narcissist but not nearly on the level her father had thank goodness, he was a lost cause.

  2. If you are a con-artist or fraudster. They have a saying;

    You have a small child eating there ice cream or enjoying there bar of chocolate.

    Question? Why is it wrong to “take candy from the baby”
    What makes it wrong.

    1. What makes it wrong;

      Is you are going to hurt the child. Not physically but emotionally. The CD’S do’nt care about that.They do’nt care if you get harmed , hurt or injured. As long as the is no consequence to them.
      That’s CD’s immoral thinking.

      Being nice, kind and generous, Is the candy thant draws those suckers in.

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