Character is everything. Just ask Benedict Arnold.
Born in Connecticut, Arnold was a successful merchant when the War of Independence broke out and he joined the American army near Boston. Commissioned an officer, he gained renown for both bravery and brilliance. He helped Ethan Allen capture Fort Ticonderoga. His skillful delaying and defensive tactics saved the Americans from severe losses at the Battle of Valcour Island. He distinguished himself in the Battle of Ridgefield, Connecticut to the extent that he was subsequently promoted to Major General.
But Benedict Arnold’s character didn’t match his talent. Passed over for further promotion, Arnold grew bitter. His rancor grew as he saw other officers take credit for some of his successes. When he was awarded command of the American fort at West Point in New York, he made plans to surrender his post to the British and defect to their army in hopes of better personal advancement.
The capture of Major Andre, Arnold’s contact in the British army exposed the plot. Arnold fled for his life down the Hudson River to safety on the British sloop-of-war Vulture. He was given a commission in the British Army and met with some success in that role.
But the British lost the war. Benedict Arnold was forced to leave his native land, never to return. His name quickly and permanently became a byword for treachery and disloyalty. Today thousands of people who know nothing of his actual life story still use his name as an insult.
It’s just a fact of life. Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.” Benedict Arnold had a lot going for him. He was smart, brave, respected and successful. But he’s remembered today for none of his assets. His name is a byword because of the tragic gaps in his character.
As parents, we often lose sight of what’s really important for our children’s future. It’s natural to want them to be smart, brave, respected and successful. All that is very good and desirable. But we need to be always on guard to make sure that while we are preparing them to do well for themselves, they are committed above all to being the kind of people that God can bless and others can trust under any circumstances.