"If wealth is lost, nothing is lost; if health is lost, something is lost; if character is lost, all is lost” (Rev Billy Graham).
This is perhaps one of the first lessons we learned in our moral science class. But for many today it is an outdated saying. They argue that if we have plenty of money, we lack nothing; only when we have wealth can we have good health, education and high standards of living. And when we have all these, we can also build up a good character. Someone recently rewrote the above statement as: “Everything is lost when wealth is lost; something is lost when health is lost and nothing is lost when character is lost”. The present craze is to go after instant wealth, and instant pleasure even at the cost of health and character!
But the importance of one's character is much more than wealth, success, name and fame. If wealth is lost, one can regain it by hard work and better planning. If one's health suffers a jolt, there are various kinds of treatments available to regain it, although not all sicknesses have remedies. Preserving one's good health is, indeed, a serious responsibility. However, one's character is far too precious than health and wealth. It takes much effort and hard work to form, to build and to nurture good character. We begin this process of character formation right from our childhood. Wealth and fame and name will come and go, but a strong character endures forever. People like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi and Aung San Suu Kyi are respected and honoured for their strong character which enabled them to fight all odds, make many sacrifices and devote their lives for the good of humanity. Says Henry Clay: “Of all the properties which belong to honourable men, not one is as highly prized as that of character.”
It takes a life time to build up a good character, but it takes but a moment's carelessness to lose its integrity and thereby lose our honour and self respect. We know of so many fallen heroes like politicians, sports people, businessmen and religious figures who, once were idolised by the people, but, lost the esteem and honour they commanded because they did something stupid or fell to the temptations of greed or lust or bad company. What they have lost can never be regained, no matter how hard they work and how profoundly they repent.
Some people indulge in character assassination through which people suffer the loss of their good name. People, out of jealousy, greed or enmity indulge in this most atrocious crime of bringing disrepute and dishonour to others and thus kill their character. This is even more vicious and potent than killing our bodies. Says Alan Barth: “Character assassination is at once easier and surer than physical assault; and it involves far less risk for the assassin. It leaves him free to commit the same deed over and over again, and may, indeed, win him the honours of a hero in the country of his victims.”