Real Character

Bill Abbate

Is character important in today’s world? Has its original meaning and intention been forgotten? It appears so. Why is this?

When you think of the word character, what image comes to mind? Is it a character in a television show or movie? Maybe it’s that character who played the class clown in school or someone you know who is a real character at work?

Then again, it could be a cartoon character or a character drawing. Or maybe it’s a character in the typeface you are reading or intend to use. It could also be a symbol, sign, or mark. It is interesting when you Google the word “character,” few of the results say anything about a person’s character.

Much modern writing overlooks character and its importance. How often do you come across an article addressing personal character? Not very.

Seldom is a person who is noble, honorable, moral, strong, and filled with integrity thought of today. But ask yourself, “Who would I prefer to have in my life, a person with an honorable or dishonorable character?” The answer is too obvious to state!

Let’s discuss what true character is and why it is important.

What is character?

While most of us are familiar with the word “character” in the personal sense, how well do we understand its importance in life?

First, let’s define what we mean by “character.” The Oxford Languages definition is “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” This definition is not very descriptive and does not help us understand the deeper meaning of the word.

Many writers of the past add either noble or honorable to character. Do a quick google search on “noble character” or “honorable character,” and you will find millions of results. Someone with noble or honorable character possesses courage, integrity, honesty, loyalty, honor, fortitude, and other important virtues. Each virtue results in a beneficial behavior. Such character traits are who a person becomes at the core of their being. These traits influence every decision and choice they make in life.

“Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.” Stephen Covey (1932–2012)

You will often hear character is who we are when no one is watching. It shows up in the way we treat others. It’s doing what is right when no one else will ever know.

There are, of course, two sides to the character coin. Some are said to lack character. These are those who have a flawed, disrespectful way about them. They can be of ignoble and vile character.

Think of the lack of character of such horrendous people as Hitler, Stalin, or Mao Zedong. Each of these men was responsible for the brutal murder of tens of millions of people. Their character was horrible, brutal, vicious, appalling, disgusting, and evil.

However, our concern here is not with poor character but what most consider normal, good, and decent.

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” John Wooden (1910–2010)

How important is character today?

There is a reason character was written about and discussed so often in the past. Character is essential to the moral development of humanity. It always has and always will be extremely important, regardless of where a person lives or what society says.

Without character, you could never develop the trust needed for a good relationship. Trust is the foundation of relationship; thus, it is critical to life, as life ceases to exist outside of relationship.

Today more than ever, character matters. There has been no other time in history that the common person had so much influence. The reach of an average person through social media and their potential to impact others is enormous. A noble and honorable character is essential to maintaining even a semblance of decency in today’s world.

“Character is the result of two things: Mental attitude and the way we spend our time.” Elbert Hubbard (1856–1915)

We continue building our character every day we live and strive to improve. With continued work on oneself, character can be transformed and changed over time. Hopefully, the change will be in the right direction!

“Character isn’t something you were born with and can’t change, like your fingerprints. It’s something you weren’t born with and must take responsibility for forming.” Jim Rohn (1930–2009)

How can character benefit you?

There are many benefits for a person to continue working on their character throughout life. A few of these include:

  • Treating others with respect and honor.
  • Establishing trust, the foundation of all relationships.
  • Building confidence in yourself and others.
  • Genuine caring for others, especially those close to you and in your family.
  • Building and maintaining good and strong relationships with others.
  • Enhancing the value you deliver at work and in life.
  • Understanding your purpose and living a more fulfilling life.
  • Providing you with drive, energy, and stamina to work hard and to help others.
  • Helping you focus on the positive and good in your life and the life of others.
  • Being diligent and dependable in your duties at work and home.
  • Maintaining morality.
  • Enhancing your maturity.
  • Living with fewer regrets
  • Reducing stress and anxiety by being true to who you are.

Do you notice what many of these benefits have in common? People! Is anything more important?

Final thoughts

Why work to improve your character? Because it is life-changing and life-enhancing. As you continue to develop your character, life improves in every way. You will live a more meaningful and satisfying life and improve the lives of others. What better reasons are there to work on character than these?

Your character determines who you are and how you show up in the world. What is your character showing to those who are in your life?

“People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)

I leave you with wisdom from ancient times that is as valuable today as it was more than two millennia ago. In these words is the pathway to a noble and honorable character.

“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” Lao Tzu (c. 6th century BC)

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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