Why Do We Judge Character?

By | September 7, 2021

[September 7, 2021] By the time General Douglas MacArthur commanded the occupation troops in Japan after World War II, it was nearly unanimous that his character was deeply flawed.  After Communist North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, MacArthur – who was put in charge of all UN troops – devised a brilliant plan to cut off the Communists with the Inchon Landing (one of the most famous in military history).  Yet it was his arrogant belief in his own superior intelligence that misled him just a few months later to send UN forces north, where they blundered into the largest ambush of an army in history.

A social skill that is undeniably the most valuable and most desirable is accurately judging another person’s character.  Why do we judge the character of others?  Our ability to judge determines whether we are successful in life or not.  We are trying to determine if they are honest, reliable, competent, kind, modest, etc.  Leaders are particularly good at discriminating the good from the bad; otherwise, they will fail. When senior leaders fail, the failure can be spectacular, as in the case of General MacArthur.

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” – Malcolm S. Forbes1

Here are some indicators that a person has character flaws.2  There are many more than listed here, of course, but these are a good start and not surprising:

  • Obsessive
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Arrogant
  • Impatient
  • Deny blame
  • Belittle others
  • Prone to anger

Eventually, General MacArthur became so obsessed with the illusion that Communists and politicians in Washington D.C. were out to get him that he publically denounced the U.S. President and much of the rest of the U.S. government.  That got him relieved of duty (fired from his position), something Harry Truman was hesitant to do despite knowing MacArthur’s flaws.


  1. There has been considerable discussion over who first said this or said something similar. A good discussion is here at Quote Investigator: http://quoteinvestigator.com/2011/10/28/judge-character/
  2. Note that there are some clear parallels to the “7 deadly sins” of Christian ethics.
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “Why Do We Judge Character?

  1. Wendy Holmes

    Wow, thanks Gen. Satterfield, this article ties in well with the one your wrote today on self-discipline. Note, lately I’ve seen a rise in articles that deal with a person’s character. There is a message here, not to be overlooked.

    1. Willie Strumburger

      Yes, I’ve noticed it as well. Thanks Wendy for bringing this up. I noticed it a couple of days ago. Maybe, Gen. Satterfield is trying to tell us something about the faulty leadership we are seeing today in our politicians and military leaders.

  2. Erleldech

    “Deny blame” yeah, that is the one I see so often. Common among immature adults who were never taught that they must take responsibility for their action or inaction.

  3. Tom Bushmaster

    So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:
    kind and compassionate
    capable of taking the blame
    able to persevere
    modest and humble
    pacific and can control anger.

    1. Harry Donner

      Good list Tom. Thank you. Another good article by Gen. Satterfield that makes the point, indirectly, that we are not very good at judging people’s character. Just look at the many politicians who are deeply corrupt, and everyone knows it, and yet they continue to get re-elected over and over.

  4. Wilson Cox

    Gen. Satterfield, another excellent article. We should be judging our political and military elite. Today we would give them a grade of “F” in their ability to properly execute their duties.

    1. Max Foster

      Wilson, correct and the more we learn about people, what their jobs are supposed to be, their proper methods, and their ability to ‘see’ the good and bad of others and other nations, the better off we all will be. Good judgment is DISCOURAGED today. Why? A persuasive ideology – political correctness based on Marxism – has invaded us.

  5. Linux Man

    I like the list of indicators of those things that indicates character flaws. And, as well, Gen. Satterfield that you point out that the similarity to the 7 deadly sins. That says something about how good the Bible is in showing us who we are and gives us some idea of what to do about it to be better people.

  6. Purse 5

    Interesting info on Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The man was a genius but he had a number of real flaws. I’m not convinced yet that he didn’t have it right with the communists. His view of communist China, I think, was on target. It would have been better to “take care of them” at that time than to allow the country to develop into a world-dominating nation.

  7. Rev. Michael Cain

    And that is why we are good at judging character and the lack of it.

    1. Stacey Borden

      So many folks without good character, where do I start? It is a shame that we no longer devote the time and energy to help folks develop character that is good for them and us. Now, we ‘see’ this as being judgmental (how horrible) and actually might make someone uncomfortable.

      1. Joe Omerrod

        YEah that is the modus operandi of the DNC. Make people “feel” uncomfortable and you are a racist, bigot!!! Nothing like being judgmental of those who are judgmental.


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