Unmasking perpetrators

By Dr. Henry Wong Meng Yeong | Monday, March 3 2014

Continuing our discussion on the importance of recruiting people of virtues and integrity, we examine Confucian advice on reading a person’s character. A person's educational qualifications do not equal character as we have seen from the numerous examples of corrupt and fraudulent individuals with illustrious credentials.

If our selection processes and interviews merely look for intelligence and experience, we miss out on the most important criteria, which defines a person- his character. The importance is magnified if he is invested with power or trusted with money. John Adams, the second president of the United States said that "Because power corrupts, society's demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases." Power and money test one’s character as Abraham Lincoln affirmed "if you want to test a man's character, give him power." On money, Henry Ford had this to say "Money doesn't change men, it merely unmasks them. If a man is selfish or arrogant or greedy, the money brings that out." History attests to the consequences of appointing people with dubious character and values in positions of power and authority.

How then do we unmask someone to reveal their true character? To begin with, we will must not have preconceived notions, that academic merits reflect character, i.e. the higher the qualifications the more upright the character. We must also not have preferences for and prejudices against color or religion, and base our selection instead on character content rather than outward form. Martin Luther King, Jr. said "I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Mark Twain elegantly expressed his thoughts on prejudices: "There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages."

Confucius openly conceded that his evaluation of people is based on character and not criteria such as academic merits, status or wealth. According to Confucian philosophy, the apotheosis of the most enviable of titles is that of 君子, which describes an aristocracy of nobility of character.

Character is paramount when recruiting employees and making friends. "When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost."Billy Graham

Everyone has encountered perfidious characters whether at work or in their personal lives, and few have not been deceived, lied to, duped, cheated, conned, scammed, ripped off or swindled. If only they wish they had the foresight to identify these perpetrators beforehand? Confucius proposed a check list to unmask and appraise character in order to separate the chaff from the wheat. The discussion continues.