Somewhere around third grade I remember visiting a friend from school. He had cats; our family had dogs (and rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, birds, fish and turtles). We loved our pets – they were a significant part of our upbringing. But I wasn’t familiar with cats, and so I was shocked when my friend’s cat turned from purring as I stroked it, to sinking its teeth in me. I’m not talking about a friendly nip, but an aggressive chomp. But as surprised and angry as I was, retaliation was not an option that I considered.
I bring this up because I think kindness to animals is a good indicator of character.
There are psychological disorders where cruelty to animals can be a symptom – Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is one and so is Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopathy). This disregard for animals may eventually translate into abuse (emotional or physical) towards you or those you love. People with these disorders lack empathy. They are not able to identify with the pain of others and so may inflict it carelessly or even with delight! This might be something that can be overlooked or ignored when evaluating a relationship. I’m not implying that you should be looking for and diagnosing a disorder, but rather being aware of unusual behavior.
I also have concerns about people who hold the value of an animal above or at the same level as people. I believe somewhere along the way they have picked up hurts that have not been resolved. Although God has given life to both humans and animals, He has given a special position to those who have been made in His image.
I have always maintained that another good predictor of character is the way a person treats people who serve them, whether a wait person in a restaurant, an employee or a public servant. I watch people in positions of power to see how they care for people. Does the person you are dating have a natural demeanor of humility or do they seem to think of themselves as better than others? It’s possible that they may see you as inferior in time, and will treat you accordingly.
We can be confused by what we may view as “high standards” in a person, when in reality it is really a critical spirit or an arrogant attitude. Good character displays good values, and good values include kindness and acceptance of others. Harshness is the result of a cold and unforgiving heart.
I have friends that naturally seek out those who might normally be disregarded by others, and treat them as equals. I really admire that quality in them. I believe they experience life and love at a deeper level. Their hearts are tuned to a different frequency than most people. You might say they are tuned to a “God frequency”. They take the gift of compassion to a whole new level.
I think this is a good verse to use for these kinds of evaluations:
Romans 12:3 – For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.