“People are either charming or tedious” (Oscar Wilde).
PERSONALLY, I DON’T THINK OSCAR WILDE WAS FAR WRONG. We do find people to be one or the other: charming or tedious. But mention the word “charming” and many people think of the smooth operator who uses charm as a means of manipulating others. Is that all there is to charm? Does it not have a more positive aspect?
In its most basic sense, “charm” simply means “the power or quality of pleasing or delighting.” But it can also mean the technique of “casting a spell,” as in magic or voodoo, where techniques are used that are thought to affect others without their consent. So “charming” can imply such an ability to allure others that one can beguile or bewitch them almost irresistibly. In a lesser sense, words like “enchanting” or “fascinating” or “captivating” carry this meaning.
But to be charming doesn’t have to mean influencing others quite so forcefully. It can simply mean that when others have dealings with us they find us pleasing or delightful (rather than tedious).
When we think of it this way, wouldn’t the effort to be more charming be a worthy effort? Wouldn’t charm, rightly defined, be a good gift we could give to those around us? I believe it would, and I agree with Henry Van Dyke when he said, “There is no personal charm so great as the charm of a cheerful temperament.” Without trying to manipulate anyone, we can certainly improve the cheerfulness of our temperament, and when we do, others will appreciate it.
The main thing about charm, however, is that it must be coupled with good character. Whether we have a natural gift for charm or not, the outward aspect of that charm can never be a substitute for integrity and a pure heart on the inside. But when a pleasing “exterior” is coupled with an honorable “interior,” what a combination that is! In the ancient words of Menander: “When good character adds adornment to natural charms, whoever comes near is doubly captivated.”
I urge you, then, to be who you are. Work every day on being a better version of yourself. Make a genuine effort to be pleasing to other people — because you love them. And you will be charming.
To me more dear, congenial to my heart,
One native charm, than all the gloss of art.