By studying the character of others, one can become alert to ways in which he can improve his own nature. To study character in a negative way, however, is not right, and has a devastating effect. Everyone shuns a “character detective,” who exposes others’ faults. Many people who enjoy criticizing cannot themselves stand criticism, and may even have the same flaws they so righteously deplore in another.
Character study is important primarily in this respect: one needs constantly to take note of virtues in others and to implant those good traits in himself.
Jesus said: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” He condemned that criticism of others which is done solely out of desire to hurt. Such behavior is unkind and spoils friendship. Criticism has no use whatsoever unless it is given with sincere love, and only when wanted. It should be offered with a loving desire to help the other person.Those who have learned self control have the right to help others. From that point of view character study is worthwhile.
One type of character is based on physiognomy. It is said that the salient characteristics of man are revealed in his body—- a very sweeping statement. Not all one’s physiological characteristics do tell the real tale of the inner life.
Aristotle studied physiognomy as a guide to character. Hindu teachers go deeper. They say that the main thoughts of all one’s incarnations are reflected in the eyes. Though the eyes reveal the whole story of the soul, not only of this life but of past lives, still it requires a master’s mind to analyze the revelation of your past lives reflected in this life.
Once in a while you are walking along and suddenly notice something in the eyes of a passer by, and you think, ” I don’t like him,” or as” I like him.”Eyes tell the whole story. Fear, anger, jealousy, greed, generosity, love, courage, spirituality—–all these qualities, good and bad, cause corresponding reflections in the eyes.
Facial and bodily features have been studied, even the bumps on the head have been analyzed, but physical appearance does not always tell the story.
No two faces are the same. Each is different because of characteristics that have manifested themselves in this life and in past lives. So it is not a matter of simply judging people as bad or good because their present looks are repellent or pleasing. St. Francis was not physically attractive, whereas his disciple Brother Masseus was a handsome man. But Masseus did not possess as great a spiritual beauty as St. Francis.
You can analyze people more surely according to their feeling than to their physical appearance.
Though an interesting study of character is possible through analysis of the eyes, the emotions, and the physical features, as has been pointed out, the greatest and highest way to learn about character is through soul intuition. If your mind and feeling remain perfectly calm, you will be able to feel intuitively and exactly the nature of each person you meet.
As a mirror reflects all things held before it, so when your mind- mirror is calm, you will be able to see reflected in it the true quality of others. If you are busy doing good to all, remaining calm and meditative, the true character of whoever comes to you will be revealed to you.
Self-Realization Fellowship international headquarters, Los Angeles, California, January 11, 1942