There’s a woman I know who is always the first to volunteer when help is needed or opportunities arise. She chimes in with gusto and positivity. When I first met her, I was in awe of her energy and delighted that she’d expressed an interest in being part of my project. A week before she was to deliver on her promise, she backed out. She felt awful of course, but there’d been a personal emergency.
The next time something came up, she jumped in again as full of smiles and happiness as ever. About a week before she had to deliver, she backed out. Another personal emergency. And so began a pattern of behaviour.
I’ve lost count of the number of times she’s enthusiastically agreed to chip in. I can tell you though, that 99% of the time she’s backed out (I remember her showing up only once, and even then she didn’t put in a great effort). After her third cancellation, I simply began to smile and nod at her. Her words suggest that she’s a team player, her actions prove that she’s unreliable.
Character is revealed through action under pressure. This is as true in life as it is in fiction. When your character’s back is against the wall, how she behaves is who she is.