3 Ways to Understand “Character” – 1st (of 7) “Super Words”

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The first of 7 posts regarding “Super Words!”   The first is “Character.”

When people talk about the character of someone, what do you think they mean?

Webster defines character in many ways, but pertaining to the individual, these are the applicable definitions: 

  • One of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual
  • The complex of mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person, group, or nation

Most of us understand the character of a  person (whom we consider unique and notable in character) in 3 practical ways.

1.  The person represents what we think is good; a person we could trust and like.

2.  The person is focused on principle, duty, and concern for others.

3.  The person has the conviction to sacrifice for the greater good, to accomplish truly important things

We talk of “developing character,”  and that certainly occurs during our lifetime.  However our character is the product of many things — our beliefs, our experiences, our struggles, and our goals.   It is often influenced by our role models, and examples from whom we learn and who we admire.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved. — Helen Keller, American social activist, public speaker and author (1880-1968).

To further develop our character we may need to:

1.  Work on building trust,  and change habits as required to be the person we desire to be.

2.  Focus on principle, duty, and concern for others.

3.  Make the changes needed to accomplish truly important things.

Please share a comment with your thoughts about understanding the character of an individual, and what we may do to further develop our character.

And please join me for the next post in this series of  “Super Words.”  It is about “Commitment.”

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuckincustoms/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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6 Responses to “3 Ways to Understand “Character” – 1st (of 7) “Super Words””

  1. Janie Duke White Says:

    It is interesting to me that during my life experience, character has been defined as “WHAT you are.” And reputation has been defined as “what people THINK you are.”

    Character is at the core of an individual’s being.

    Gary, I know I am not prejudiced when I say that YOU define character to me…..integrity, wisdom, kindness, caring…..all those attributes which are noble and good.

    • Gary Duke Says:

      Janie,

      Thank you for your perspective (our character being seen as “What we are”, and our reputation largely “What people think we are.”). I agree that it is at our “core”. That is the reason I started the Super Words list with “Character.”

      Your gracious comments toward me are deeply appreciated, though I struggle much to improve even a little in the areas of which you spoke, and have a long way to go.

  2. Lew Barr Says:

    Gary,

    The best definition of character I have heard is “doing the right thing when nobody is looking”. I always get a little boost of self-esteem when I am able to do what is right.

    For me the best way to develop character is to try to treat people the way I would like to be treated.

    Talk about serendipity I have just received and invitation to a Community Character Day sponsored by Character Fort Collins. Their definition of character is “the inward motivation to do what is right”

    Lew Barr

    • Gary Duke Says:

      Lew,

      Thanks for the link http://www.characterfortcollins.org/ , to the website for Character Fort Collins. I found it very interesting, especially the list of “49 Character Traits.” I also liked the quote from your email signature from Earl Nightingale, “A great attitude does much more than turn on the lights in our worlds; it seems to magically connect us to all sorts of serendipitous opportunities that were somehow absent before the change.”

  3. Dave Barger Says:

    This has been a thought provoking post. Like Lew mentions, the Golden Rule is a guiding light for me as well, even though I find from time to time my values to differ from others. I think there’s an assumed context to the “character” that someone mentions. I’m inclined to find Character to be someone’s ability to do what they consider to be the “right” thing, above all else. Maybe, someone’s ability to take the “high ground”.

    • Gary Duke Says:

      Dave,

      Thank you for sharing your perspective.

      For someone to follow through in doing the “right thing” as they view it, I agree — that is action that displays their character.

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