The Union Recorder


March 1, 2014

RICHARDSON: A lesson in Character Building 101

MILLEDGEVILLE — Today’s class is now in session, and our topic will be how one can build character through the use of adversity. For our purposes we will hang around the lighter side of the equation, which is to say we will not delve into the more maudlin aspects of the subject. Hey, this is supposed to be fun so we’ll keep it enjoyable but nonetheless instructive.

Included in our discussion may be an occasional reference to the Richter Scale of Adversity and Character Scientology, which can be helpful when trying to compare the relative usefulness of a particular adverse happening as it applies to building character.

Now on to the lecture.

There are several schools of thought on this topic of adversity as a builder of character. There is the Abraham Lincoln philosophy, which says, “Adversity doesn’t build character; it reveals it.”  Then there’s the Book of Proverbs, which tells us, “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”  There’s also the Albert Einstein doctrine that sagely offers us this tidbit: “Adversity introduces a man to himself.”  Then there’s the creed according to Richardson, which states, “If you cannot go fishing, forgot your beanie weenies and your boat won’t crank you have a real problem. All else is mere inconvenience.”   

No matter which one of these you subscribe to most closely it is safe to say that when we face difficult times good things can actually be the ultimate result.

To wit:

Let’s say you are driving down I-75 and have a flat tire. That ranks as a 3 on the Richter Scale because it is quite vexing and can be hazardous to your health. If you have never experienced this particular disaster I can tell you from firsthand knowledge that changing a tire while big old semi-tractor trailer rigs are zooming by at 85 miles per hour can be a harrowing event and certainly qualifies as adversity. If it’s dark, raining, the flat is on the traffic side, and your wife is giving you specific instructions on how to go about this task the Richter Scale rating can jump up in excess of 7.  However on the bright side this encounter with adversity can build character in the form of courage, patience and resilience.

OK here’s another set of circumstances to consider. You and your buddies are going duck hunting. You have chosen the coldest, most miserable morning in the history of mankind for this adventure. All good duck hunters will tell you that this is the prime time to go. The beaver pond is frozen over and you tromp through the swamp breaking ice as you go. You reach the best position possible to ensure success - and discover that your waders are leaking. That easily rates as a 4 on the Richter Scale of adversity. If you lose your balance and topple over head first the rating goes immediately to a 6. If you gamely finish the hunt and miss every shot you take, one can reasonably assume a rating of 8 would be a conservative estimate. The ensuing character that is built comes in the form of a more astute eye when buying waders, some physical conditioning specifically for balance control and a renewed vigor at practicing with your shotgun under difficult conditions. See - adversity really can build character.

Now here’s an instance where I actually provided some adversity for a young fellow that needed some serious character strengthening. When one of my daughters turned 17 and became eligible to date under our house rules we had a young man come into our driveway. That was expected. What was unexpected and unacceptable under the Richardson principle of tolerable behavior was that he drove up and blew the horn. That was a mistake. I hustled out to his car to inquire if he was the UPS man. Quoth I: “Young fella’ I hope you are dropping off a package because you sure as #%@$ ain’t picking one up.”  I hoped he would gain some insight from that incident but alas he compounded his error by showing up in my office at school the next week. My office happened to be the one at school where discipline offenders were sent. That conversation and subsequent action would easily rank as a 10 on the Richter Scale. I don’t know if his character improved as a result of those lessons because I never laid eyes on him again - at school or in my driveway.

Examples of how adversity can build character have been common in my life, and thus my lecture today has been one based on experience. Those incidents run the gamut from making a 53 for two consecutive years in trigonometry (a 2 on our scale), to discovering a hole in my boat much too late (easily a 5), to planting tomatoes under my wife’s watchful eye (a 9.8).

Because of these things and others that have not been included in this lesson I can honestly say that my character rating is an impeccable 10.

Like the old Arab proverb says, “Sunshine all the time makes a desert.”

Alvin Richardson can be reached at


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