"Judge people not by what they are, but by what they strive to become." - F. Dostoyevsky
That's an interesting recommendation, isn't it? We're always judging people by what they are. And that seems almost too obvious a procedure to have any wise alternative. We size people up by looking at what they do, listening to what they say, and weighing more heavily their actions over mere words, we categorize and label. "He's a good guy." "She's someone I can depend on." "He's a nut."
But Dostoyevsky, one of our great novelists and analysts of human behavior, has another take on this. He seems to believe, like Aristotle, that we're always in a state of becoming. And he means to take this seriously. He wants us to ask of another person, not simply what he or she is right now, or what he or she has been in the past, but what, to the best of our ability to detect, this person is striving to become. Note that he's not asking merely what a person seems to be becoming, or hopes to become, but what that person is actively striving to become. And striving is a matter of real effort and persistent aspiration. It's not wishing. It's a matter of climbing some high hill. And that's deeply interesting. For one thing, not everyone seems to strive at all. And this in itself can be telling.
But there may be a problem with this advice. Such a thing as personal striving is sometimes harder to identify than other normal facts, isn't it? Most of the hills we climb aren't physical. They're not always easily visible. It's not just a matter of surface appearances. And it's certainly not just a matter of what people say. Such judgment may require looking more deeply and discerning more completely.
On those occasions when it's really important to size up another person, I think our advisor is right, however challenging his recommendation might be. We should take into consideration an individual's dreams and desires, his or her aims and aspirations, and especially their strivings - what they give earnest and persistent effort to. Because then, perhaps, we'll better capture what they'll most likely be when we really need them, down the road a bit.
It's an interesting idea, isn't it?