Are Your True Colors Revealed in Crisis?

“Do you think people reveal their true selves in times of crisis? Or should we make allowances for shock, fear and panicked fatalism?”

A friend asked that today. There’s a saying that a person’s true character is revealed in tough times. Do you buy that?

If a person enters a difficult stage in life or undergoes personal drama or crisis, and exhibits unusual calm and rationality, does this suggest deeper virtues?

How about if a person, when confronted with emotional turmoil, acts recklessly and destructively, does this reveal a person’s deeper instability? Or do circumstances make any situational response not representative of one’s larger character?

On the first, I don’t think any truer colors, in the positive sense, are revealed in times of crisis. Hence my skepticism at the Rudy Guiliani proposition that somehow calm on 9/11 translates into broad leadership capacity.

On the second, I don’t like those who are unable to regulate themselves in times of crisis or emotional turmoil and rely upon circumstances (“It was a difficult week” or “I was feeling hurt”) to defend out-of-character actions. Again, I don’t think any truer colors are necessarily unveiled, but nor do I dismiss the colors that were.

So I suppose that makes me unsympathetic to assigning greater weight to action taken in crisis over any other action.

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