Christianity, Philosophy, Spiritual Life

Charisma: Being Liked and Solomon’s Proverbs

What is Charisma?

Olivia Fox Cabane, in The Charisma Myth, outlines three qualities she finds important for becoming a charismatic person (Cabane, 13). I would define a charismatic person as “somebody who is well liked or favored in and beyond his or her circles of influence.”

  1. Presence – She never actually defines this, but reading pages 13-17 gives the impression that presence is giving full attention to the people around you. Sometimes being a bit aloof can make somebody likable, but it’s a risk.
  2. Power – “Being seen as powerful means being perceived as able to affect the world around us” (18). In general, this is a trait that makes people likable. We invent gods because we love power.
  3. Warmth – “Warmth…is goodwill toward others” (18).

Cabane’s breakdown of charisma is very helpful. For instance, if somebody were to complain to me of not having friends or of having trouble getting people to like them, I would ask them whether or not they would rate themselves as possessors of these traits. It is certainly the case that people could be excluded unfairly on account of their attempts to be a good person or some form of issue based exclusion. But generally, if somebody is the black sheep in a group, it is because one or more of these traits are lacking.

Charisma and the Christian Life

According to the Bible, these traits are actually an important component of the wisdom. If you are skeptical about learning charisma, recall that as Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52)” In other words, it’s okay to be well liked and to even grow in the traits that make you likable.

Of course, for the Christian to “be persecuted for righteousness’ sake” is far better than being liked for compromising truth, goodness, or holiness. So, favor with God always trumps favor with man, but they do not always contradict one another.

Charisma in Proverbs:

  1. Presence

    Presence, though not explicitly mentioned, is an important component in Proverbs. The idea is that one who listens and is patient with people can influence them, learn from them, come to like them, and be liked by them.

    1. Pro 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
    2. Pro 18:15 An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
    3. Pro_18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
    4. Pro_20:5 The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.
    5. Pro 25:15 With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.
    6. Pro 25:17 Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you.
  2. Power

    Power in the form of finances, knowledge, skill, and political power is consistently recognized by Proverbs. Solomon treats power as a dangerous possession. Those with money and skill who use it for selfishness are unwise, evil, and self-destructive. The question for somebody who wishes to become more powerful is “how will I do it without departing from goodness and true wisdom?

    1. Pro 14:20 The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends.
    2. Pro 14:28 In a multitude of people is the glory of a king, but without people a prince is ruined.
    3. Pro 19:6 Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.
    4. Pro 19:7 All a poor man’s brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words, but does not have them.
    5. Pro 22:29 Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.
    6. Pro_27:2 Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.
  1. Warmth

    Warmth is definitely key to being liked or favored in Proverbs. It is a characteristic of genuine pleasantness, kindness, and eloquence. This is distinct from the attractive features of the adulterous and the wicked. This is because gracious/warm behavior is just as much a skill to be exploited as it is a characteristic of the godly to be internalized.

    1. Pro 11:16 A gracious (same word as charm Pro 31:20) woman gets honor, and violent men get riches.
    2. Pro 22:11 He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend.
    3. Pro 25:15 With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.
    4. Pro 28:23 Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue.
    5. Pro 28:23 Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue.

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