Conformity and character – a crucible for election

Dianne St. Jean

Two things reveal who or what a person really is – what they do and how they act when no is watching, or what they do and how they act when they think everyone is watching.

I’m not talking about what many or most of us are likely to do in the privacy of our homes – sing out loud off-key, walk around relatively undressed, or yes, pass gas freely – all those things that would either embarrass us or others if we were to do them in public.

So – who or what is the ‘real person’ – the one in the privacy of their home – or the one in public?

I think it’s about balancing who we really are - our character – while at the same time trying to conform to the obligations within our personal social network or workplace.

Let’s face it, as much as some of us more free-spirited individuals say we like to challenge the concept of conformity at times, every one of us conforms in our everyday life – it’s just a matter of choosing what we conform to.

All social networks, even jobs or professions, carry their own set of ethics and obligations, what some may think of as a four-letter ‘dirty’ word – RULE.

But rules in and of themselves are not necessarily a bad thing. Rules draw clearly lines of expectation so that we know what is required of us in certain situations, as well as what we can expect from others, all which helps maintain balance or order. Let me give a rudimentary example – the kid in the group or classroom who just has to constantly dominate by speaking over others or out of turn, or acting up to get attention.

That might sound like a simple example – but it makes the point. Breaking conformity under certain circumstances can often be a cover-up for disrespect of others or their opinions, and perhaps even a sign of immaturity.

Then there’s the other extreme – the person who never shows who they really are because they conform so well on the outside. How many times are we shocked when some nice, decent and quiet guy gets arrested for some violent or sick crime? “Oh, but he was so nice, never caused any trouble…”

While that may be an extreme example, it also makes the point – having a polished or perfect outward image is not necessarily an accurate indicator of character.

What we do or who we choose to hang around with is our own personal business. But what about situations, like election time, that require us to make choices about others, even on a personal level?

You know how elections and politics get – sometimes downright nasty. It is the one profession in which people are criticized or sometimes over-scrutinized. Personally, I don’t like election times just because of all the mudslinging and character assassinating.

Politicians have the right to be who they are in their private life – but they also have to be able to conform and carry out their obligations on behalf of those who elect them.

The burden and fine balancing act between character and conformity – being who we really are, and what we think others think we should be –I’m glad I’m not a politician.