How to be a Good Judge of Character

What do I mean about being a JUDGE of character? While we are not supposed to judge people, that’s God’s job, when it comes to determining who we may spend the rest of our lives with, looking for clues as insights into their character is wise.

In the context of someone claiming to be a good judge of character in general, this is an admired quality. There seems to be a degree of intuition and discernment that guides this assessment and concludes whether or not someone is worth associating with. To be a good judge of character in a dating relationship is important because when your decisions impact each other on the level they would when you’re married, you have to use clues to indicate deeper character impact.

Here are several examples of clues to assess someone’s character:

  • How does he treat service staff – waitstaff, the teller at the bank, the doorman, etc.?
  • How does he tip?
  • How does he treat his mother/father/sister/brother?
  • Does he hold the door or open the door for you?
  • Does he have a savings habit? How is he with his finances?
  • How does he respond when he is angry?
  • How does he respond when plans change?
  • What is he like when he drinks – if he drinks?
  • Does he like children?
  • Is he accountable with his work?
  • How well does he communicate?
  • Does he cheat on his taxes?
  • How does he respond in traffic?
  • What angers him?
  • Is he optimistic or cynical?
  • What are his friends like?

Some of these don’t have a right or wrong answer, but it is more of evaluating if his responses align with your values.

If you want someone that is good with the finances, then seeing how he has done on his own can indicate his ability to manage later. Does he make decisions on spending based on a need, situation, and availability of funds, or is it based more on emotion? If you’re good with finances, you may feel that this is a less important quality for him to possess. But then, how would he feel about you managing them? If he is rude to service people, sometimes that can indicate entitlement. Most importantly, pay attention to how he responds under pressure. I have heard that a true test of character isn’t how you are on your best days, but how you act on your worst days. It is inevitable that there will be stressful situations in marriage – from financial strain, to a death of a loved one, to a hard decision regarding a job or relocation. In a fight or in a stressful situation, does he shut down or does he communicate? Does he think rationally or does he become irrational? Where does he go for advice, guidance, and strength? Is there a person he goes to, or does he go to the Lord, or does he go to a substance? Most of these things will be magnified in marriage. I am not saying that they have to be deal-breakers, but they should be things you discuss and bring light to.

Leonardo da Vinci said that “the depth and strength of a human character are defined by its moral reserves. People reveal themselves completely only when they are thrown out of the customary conditions of their life, for only then do they have to fall back on their reserves.”

Dating is oftentimes within ‘customary conditions,’ especially when you’re trying (hopefully) to put your best foot forward.  Marriage, however, is presumably filled with many uncustomary conditions and that’s when these reserves are important even when they weren’t tested in dating.

I think it is fair to assume if you are checking out these things as indicators of how he may be in the future or under pressure, then he is evaluating the same thing about you. You be you, of course, but out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Whoever you are on the inside really does show itself when squeezed. Always be working on yourself. Always be paying attention and striving to become a better you, more aligned with God’s image, and always strengthening your own character.

There are ways to actually condition yourself to ‘do the right thing.’ If your true heart and intent is to do the right thing and moreover, to glorify God in the process, I truly believe that your life will be blessed. Just like you are looking at the little things, not nitpicking, but looking, you should be strengthening yourself in the little things as well.

For instance, when you go into a bathroom, wash your hands, and throw away the paper towel, but miss – What do you do? Do you let it go and leave because the cleaning lady will get it? Or do you pick it up? Picking it up trains your character to do the right thing and to be disciplined. When you tell someone you are going to call at a certain time, are you accountable to that? Even if you are the type of person that is late or forgets things, figure out a system to remind yourself. (I delegate those reminders to Siri – very accountable assistant I’ve found.) It is the right thing and creates an accountable reputation for you. It builds trust. By conditioning yourself to do the right thing in the times where you have the opportunity to think about it first, you are then more likely to choose the right thing when you are in a split-second decision-making situation.

If you’re wondering what all of this has to do with being single, it’s everything. The areas that we compromise, or are blind to, will create stress later. Be wise. Do not be too flippant or excuse and ignore too much. Pay attention to the little things. So, when I say “be a judge,” I don’t really mean to have a heart or motive of judgement. But when you are getting to know someone to figure out if you can spend the rest of your life with them, studying who the person really is can tell you so much about compatibility long term. This doesn’t mean that one characteristic tells you everything, but it does mean that little things can be indicative of bigger things – good and bad. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you to always be Spirit-led in it. Be prayerful and trust what God is telling you.  There are dynamics of a person and interaction that can bring you comfort and peace and dynamics that make you lose that peace or hit you as not right or uncomfortable.  At the end of the day, if you are guided in a relationship by your heart, mind, and spirit, then the word on the street is that you’ll know.

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