The Missing Ingredient Is Character
As I get older – I am in my mid-seventies – I am finding that my values are probably deeper and stronger than they have ever been in my life. And I am valuing the area of my character more than many other yet still important areas of life. And I am taking note of character, or the lack of it, in other people’s lives.
Character is a word that we don’t think about a lot. In fact, often we are not even sure what a look at character truly involves. What are we looking for in a person when we comment on their character or are working to know their character?
In my study of character over the years I have created a list of what I believe constitutes “character” in a person. These are the qualities I look at and look for…
I invite you to look over this character traits list and pick at least one of these good qualities to begin working on:
Integrity is a personal trait that has strong moral principles and core values and then conducting your life with those as your guide. When you have integrity, you maintain your adherence to it whether or not other people are watching.
Honesty is a good trait that is more than telling the truth. It’s living the truth. It is being straightforward and trustworthy in all of your interactions, relationships, and thoughts. Being honest requires self-honesty and authenticity.
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.
Loyalty is an ethical trait of faithfulness and devotion to your loved ones, your friends, and anyone with whom you have a trusted relationship.
Loyalty is a good quality that can also extend to your employer, the organizations you belong to, the team you work or play with, your community, and your country.
With this character attribute you treat yourself and others with courtesy, kindness, deference, dignity, and civility. You offer basic respect as a sign that you value the worth of all people and accept the person regardless of who they are.
This exceptional quality accepts personal, relational, career, community, and societal obligations even when they are difficult or uncomfortable. This personal trait follows through on commitments and proactively create or accept accountability for your behaviour and choices.
You have a confident yet modest opinion of your own self-importance. You don’t see yourself as “too good” for other people or situations. With this honourable trait you have a learning and growth mindset and the desire to express and experience gratitude for what you have, rather than expecting you deserve more.
This character trait feels deep sympathy and pity for the suffering and misfortune of others, and you have a desire to do something to alleviate their suffering.
Using discernment, compassion, and integrity, this character trait strives to make decisions and take actions based on what you consider the ultimate best course or outcome for all involved.
You make conscious, intentional decisions to let go of resentment and anger toward someone for an offense — whether or not forgiveness is sought by the offender.
Forgiveness may or may not include pardoning, restoration, or reconciliation. It extends both to others and to one’s self.
With this virtuous attribute you are able to be your real and true self, without pretension, posturing, or insincerity. You are capable of showing appropriate vulnerability and self-awareness.
In spite of fear of danger, discomfort, or pain, this good human quality requires the mental fortitude to carry on with a commitment, plan, or decision, knowing it is the right or best course of action regardless of the opposition.
This good quality is willing to offer time, energy, efforts, emotions, words, or assets without the expectation of something in return. This character trait offers these freely and often joyously.
Perseverance is a character trait seen as a steadfast persistence and determination to continue on with a course of action, belief, or purpose, even if it’s difficult or uncomfortable in order to reach a higher goal or outcome.
This character trait is knowledgeable of basic good manners, common courtesies, and etiquette, and are willing to apply those to all people you encounter. You desire to learn the personal skills of politeness in order to enhance your relationships and self-esteem.
Kindness is a positive attribute of being considerate, helpful, and benevolent to others.
This virtuous trait is motivated by a positive disposition and the desire for warm and pleasant interactions.
This character trait has the ability to be loving toward all people showing them through your words, actions, and expressions how deeply you care about them. It includes the willingness to be open and vulnerable.
Optimism is having a sense of hopefulness and confidence about the future. It involves a positive mental attitude in which you interpret life events, people, and situations in a promising light.
This character quality can be consistently depended upon to follow through on your commitments, actions, and decisions. You do what you say you will do.
This character attribute has the desire to do things well or to the best of your ability.
You are thorough, careful, efficient, organized, and vigilant in your efforts, based on your own principles or sense of what is right.
With this good character trait, you are able, through good habits or willpower, to overcome your desires or feelings in order to follow the best course of action or to rise to your commitments or principles. You have a strong sense of self-control in order to reach a desired goal.
When you are ambitious, you possess the keen desire to achieve your goals.
Whether you are seeking to move ahead in your life and leadership, your ambition gives you the motivation to make it happen.
This character trait is positive as long as your ambition doesn’t overshadow your values or force you to compromise other positive character traits.
When you are encouraging, you offer hope, strength, and positive reinforcement to others. You go out of your way to give someone support and confidence.
This is an excellent trait as it reveals your ability to understand and care for others in an emotionally intelligent way. Because of your encouraging nature, others are naturally attracted to you.
The ability to forgive yourself and others reveals that you have a balanced perspective of human nature and the flaws inherent in all of us. You are able to let go of grudges, hurts, offences, and resentment which in turn frees you and anyone who might have offended you. It is an advanced trait that is an act of courage and commitment.
When you possess the trait of being considerate, you show an ability to think of other people as well as yourself. You show care to others and seek to understand how they might feel in certain situations and adjust your behaviour accordingly. To be considerate also means being polite and respectful — even of those at a different station in life from you.
When you are thorough, you’re willing to put in the extra effort to ensure things are done completely, correctly and with excellence. Others can count on you to fulfill your commitments with great care and attention to detail.
The older I become the more I am finding that my values are probably deeper and stronger than they have ever been in my life. I rely less and less on beliefs, which I seem to have fewer of as I age. What’s the difference? Values don’t change, but beliefs do — all the time. Every time you learn something new, your beliefs adjust. In my lifetime I have let go of dozens and dozens of beliefs that I once possessed just because I learned more or experienced more.
Today I am far less interested in certainty about many things (beliefs) and much more interested in clarity about the few things that matter. And though I am certain about fewer things, I have more clarity than I have ever had before in my life. A benefit of being older and having lived through many things in life and survived. The things that are crystal clear are my values.
Why put so much emphasis on values? Because values create the foundation of character, and character provides the foundation for success in all aspects of life.
The idea of building character isn’t flashy or exciting. It’s not something we regularly add to our list of annual goals. But the results of developing character are life changing. It’s one of only two or three things I can think of that are most important in life.
Here is why character is so important and why you should make the choices needed to develop your character capacity….
1> Good character is a choice you can make every day
Every day you either grow your good character or shrink it. When you choose to do the right thing based on a positive value, your character expands. With each right choice, you develop the strength to make other right choices, and more-difficult right choices. In contrast, every time you choose to cut corners, compromise on your values, or turn your back on what you know to be right, it shrinks your character. The smaller and weaker it gets, the more difficult it is to make another right choice.
What are you focused on day to day? Making your work more lucrative? Making your company bigger? Rising up through the ranks in your organization? Building your ministry? Or making your character better, deeper, stronger? The choices you make every day make you!
2> Good character speaks louder than words
“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” (Coach John Wooden).
Who we are inside is much more important than how others see us. Character represents who you really are on the inside: the moral and mental qualities that make you, you. And that is what speaks to people. It speaks more loudly than your words or the words others say about you. Your character represents you to the world.
3> Good character is consistent in all areas of life
When a person has good character, he or she has it in every area of life consistently, regardless of circumstances, regardless of setting, and regardless of context. There’s no such thing as business ethics – there’s only ethics. People try to use one set of ethics for their professional life, another for their spiritual life, and still another at home with their family. That gets them into trouble. Ethics are ethics. If you desire to be ethical, you live by one standard across the board.
Good character uses the same standard in every situation. If something is right, it’s always right. If it’s wrong, it’s always wrong. People with good character are consistent. People who try to use multiple standards with different people and in different situations live fragmented lives.
4> Good character engenders trust
When a person lives a fragmented life (see previous blog), others never know what to expect from him or her. They don’t know how the person will act in any given situation. They are not consistent. In contrast, a person of good character who lives by the same consistent standard invites trust. People know what they are going to get. They know the person;’s words and actions will line up. They can rely on the person and what he or she says.
Whenever you make a commitment to another person, you create hope. When you keep that commitment, you create trust. Good character helps you to follow through on that commitment and develop trust.
Why is that important? Because all relationships are built on trust. So by increasing character potential, you build the trust needed to increase people potential. You will have more influence and more of an impact than someone that has not taken the time to develop their character and thus earn the trust of others. Increased people potential not only improves the quality of your life but also improves the qualities of your relationships, including your ability as a leader. When trust is absent, leadership falters.
5> Good character is tested in times of trouble
Adversity doesn’t build character: it reveals it. When you have good character, difficulty only makes you more determined. When your character is weak, difficulty makes you discouraged. Work on your character now. When the storm comes, it’s too late to prepare.
6> Good character always take the high road
Most people want to treat others the way they’ve been treated. It’s human nature. That’s not the way I want to live and should not be the way you want to live – especially if you are in a Christian leadership position. I don’t want to treat others worse than they treat me. I want to treat others better than they treat me. I want to always take the high road.
I hope you will take a similar path. It’s true that sometimes you will be hurt – even by believers in the Church; especially by church members. You will be treated unfairly. People will take advantage of you. But wouldn’t you rather make the world a better place and help other people?
7> Good character delivers on its promises
When you say you’ll do something, do you follow through? Are you known as someone who delivers? Or do others sometimes worry that you may give up or not show up. Booker T. Washington said, “Character is power.” Make the most of it.
Scientist Marie Curie observed, “You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work on his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity.”
If you want to build your character, your need to try to align four things:
- Your values
- Your thinking
- Your feelings
- Your actions
If your values are good and you make the other three things consistent with them, there’s almost nothing you can’t improve in your life.
Are you willing to do the mundane work of increasing your character capacity? It probably won’t receive any fanfare. In fact, you may be the only person who’ll ever know what steps you’ve taken to grow in this area. But I guarantee that you will see positive results and live a better life.