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The Seven Social Sins: Knowledge Without Character


We all want to be smart and seen as smart by others.  Ever watch an episode of Jeopardy?  The people on there all seem like geniuses.  I know I always feel a bit dumber every time I come across an episode and can’t answer many of the questions.  Knowledge is surely power, especially when used.  And it can be very powerful when coupled with good character.  But, knowledge coupled with a weak character can be disastrous.  As Mahatma Gandhi noted, knowledge without character is weakness and is one of the Seven Social Sins.

The Dangers

Imagine putting a gun in the hand of a person who has never held a gun.  Or imagine your 16 y/o son who wants to drive your corvette to see what it can do.  Putting this much power in the hands of a person with no experience is like giving someone knowledge and no character.   A person who has knowledge but no character will look to take advantage of situations and people.   They will use that knowledge, ignorantly and irresponsibly.  It does sound kind of weird to say a knowledgeable person is ignorant, but that is what they are if they know so much but have such a small character.

Here’s a real world example of a person with knowledge and no character…

The Great Arguer

We all know that one person who is sharp, quick on their feet, and up for an argument.  They’re the people who believe an argument is something that is won or lost.  They go into an argument looking to come out on top rather than some sort of mutual resolution where both people are satisfied.  They often “win” the argument in their eyes, but they damage the relationship.  And sadly, they feel better about themselves.  How do I know?   I use to be that guy.  I was quick on my feet and sharp with my tongue when it came to arguing.  I use to pride myself on it when I was younger.  How foolish was I and what a lack of character I had.  

The Obligated

In my opinion, the one with the most knowledge is obligated to do good with that knowledge and are obligated to work on their character.  Knowledge is a gift, one to be used for the good of the world, not for selfish gain.  With the more we learn, we should be applying that to the person we are, working towards a more selfless existence.

The Takeaway

Just like knowledge is gained over time, character is made over time.  The goal would be to grow your character as you grow your knowledge.  The hope is that the more we know the more we grow.  But this is not always the case.  It’s great to be seen as smart, but what are you doing with that intelligence?  Are you developing character with it or using it for selfish gain?  Knowledge is a gift to be shared, not wasted on one who has no character.  You’re obligated to take what you know and become the best person you can be for everyone around you.  Do you really want to be the guy or gal with the brains but not the love?

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