When we look back over the course of history there are several speeches that still ring with passion and spirit to invoke modern emotion. Kennedy's "Ask Not" challenge, Lincoln's Gettysburg address, and Martin Luther King's "Content of Character" speeches have stood the test of time.
When we recall the words of Dr. King we tend to gloss over the specific meaning of what he had to say. Most think that content of character simply means we should judge people for who they are beneath the pigmentation of their skin. Although this is true, if we are really to appreciate the content of character we must understand what creates one's character in the first place.
Character is nothing more than a group of cultures. It is what we have learned from our experiences based on our experiences in whatever religious, economic, geographical, recreational, vocational, physical inventory, gender, sexual orientation, and racial cultures. Character is the cultures taught to us by her parents, witnessed in our friends, impressed upon us by the media, and demonstrated by our heroes.
King's words prompt us to look into the soul of a person instead of pre-judging outward appearances.
Pre-judging is easy. It is often wrong and can cost us friendships, business opportunities, and growth experiences.
I remember a Franchise Expo we held in the early days of MBC Global. An older unshaven man in ragged clothes toured the display floor feeling no need to impress. The exhibitors ignored him, preferring to talk to the crisp, well pressed suits. When he did speak, he did so in what appeared to be uneducated English. Without being introduced to a single franchise opportunity he decided to exit. As he was leaving I spoke to him briefly. He said he wanted to come even though it was a weekend day normally dedicated to sleeping in and spending time with his family. The following Monday he sat behind his desk managing his empire of 84 gas stations.
Just as these franchise salespeople missed an opportunity, we all miss opportunities when we jump to erroneous conclusions simply because we don't get to know the contents of one's character.
Before passing judgment take the time to understand the cultures contained within a person's character. Only then will you be able to get beyond your prejudices.