Sunday Snippet: Nicolas Chamfort (1741 - 1794)

“In great affairs men show themselves as they wish to be seen; in small things they show themselves as they are.”

Even though Chamfort lived over two centuries ago, his words perhaps ring even truer today than they did in the 18th century.

You see many people who maintain a certain online persona, but they end up being entirely different people when you meet them in real life. The same can be said about TV personalities and other public figures, especially politicians running for office. You’ve got to ask yourself: are you really the same person in public as you are in private?

Yes, it is absolutely true that you want to put your best foot forward. Everyone wants to have good PR for any number of different reasons, but you have to remember to maintain that same level of integrity even when no one is looking. It is often said that the greatness of a society is measured on the basis of how it treats its weakest members. Variations of this concept have been attributed to such great men as Mahatma Ghandi and Pope John Paul II. Look beyond the “what’s in it for me?” argument and see what impact you are really making. Who are you, really?

Remember that Ted Koppel told us to aspire to decency and civility. It may be difficult to adhere to high ethical standards, but that is something we should all strive toward. It doesn’t matter if no one is looking and no one will remember; we should be kind and compassionate to our fellow man. Your true character is revealed when there is no one there to judge you.

Chamfort was born Sébastien-Roch Nicolas. He was a French writer who was perhaps best known for his wit and humor, but the above quote demonstrates that he could offer profound insights too. His work ranged from literary criticisms to comedies, political writings to character portraits.