Moral vs. political — Should they coincide?


After a very short night of sleep, I woke to the shrill ringing of my cell phone. Annoyed I hit the ignore button only to have it go off again. Answering the phone with a groggy voice I heard the angry voice of my father saying something about a smashed in mirror on my car and a question about “why had I lied to him?” Confused and honestly thinking he had gone a bit crazy, I walked out to my car in the driveway only to find the front-side mirror had been smashed in on my car.

The previous night I came home late from an out-of-town tennis trip; I drove the two blocks home then collapsed into my bed without noticing the damage. After explaining that I didn’t cause the damage, and that it must have happened in the school parking lot while I was away, my father calmed down. I asked why he was so worked up and he responded, “I thought you had purposely lied to me. I don’t care if you damaged your car or not. I was more upset because I wasn’t sure how I could trust you if you would go behind my back and lie to me.”

While reflecting on this experience and many similar to it, I got be thinking about honesty and our exceptions from others. When someone is honest with me, I am more apt to trust their future decisions.

Many of our expectations for others come from either what we have been taught or from the example of those that have gone before us.

Looking at the great leaders of the world, it is interesting to find that they all have a wide variety of personalities and character traits. With that said, the question I pose today is: should a political leader also possess a good character in order to be considered great?

Among the different cultures and religions of the world, what it means to be a person of moral character varies. However, there are some universal trends on what it means to be a person of character.

Honesty, kindness, and integrity are common traits for a person with upstanding character among the most cultures in the world. In order to trust those that lead us, shouldn’t we expect them to portray these basic character traits?

Examples throughout history down to modern times show that there are many great leaders that led their people to political victory but also led morally corrupt lives.

In our recent American history, we have examples of presidents of the United States such as Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy who were dishonest with the American public about their immoral affairs with women but are known as good political leaders.

If they were dishonest with the public, why were they considered good? I believe it is because of the economic impact of their presidencies. Because President Clinton helped the economy, he was deemed as a good president.

While living in Ukraine as a missionary I often had a hard time understanding many people’s praise of the glorified leader Lenin when I knew the history behind what kind of a man he was, and the hardships the people are now facing due to aspects of  his leadership. However, through my time there I learned to understand that while he may not have been the best man morally he was a strong leader that did good in the eyes of the people.

In our country, with the separation between church and state, I wonder if that also means there is a separation between character and politics.

In order to trust the decisions of those around me, the main element I look for in a person is honesty. Many people I have talked to have agreed with this statement that if someone is just honest with them about an issue they are more willing to forgive and trust them in the future.

Should politics be any different? Shouldn’t we be able to expect our leaders to possess the character traits of honesty, kindness and integrity so that we can trust their leadership? Although I have my own opinion on this topic, I believe it is important that we each make that distinction for ourselves. And before we vote or lend our support to a specific leader we should think about what kind of person they are and whether or not that is important to us.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email