(Updated and reposted from February 2, 2022 original)
The world I grew up in seems to have all but vanished. Children have rights over the rights and obligations of their adult parents. Decisions are arbitrarily chosen to allow by those in power minors to choose medical decisions without parental consent. Young 18 year olds can vote but can’t drink. 16 year olds can get a license, but not vote or drink. Parents are now required to supply their adult children with health insurance until they reach the age of 24, even though these “children” are fully capable of working and obtaining their own insurance. And studies from insurance companies over the years have shown that the ability to actually make rational judgement doesn’t even come to fruition until the person reaches the age of 24, and is verified from research showing a drop in accident rates especially in men at that age.
What is character and is it necessary?
Let’s first look at what character is.
According to the online Free Dictionary, it is
- a.) The combination of mental characteristics and behavior that distinguishes a person or group. b.) The distinguishing nature of something.
- a.) Moral strength; integrity. b.) Public estimation of someone; reputation
- 3. Biology A structure, function ,or attribute of an organism, influence by genetic, environmental, and developmental factors.
- a.) A person considered as having a specific quality or attribute. b.) A person considered funny or eccentric
- (not applicable to the human person)
- A description of a person’s attributes, traits, or abilities”
In summary, the character of a person is what makes him who is is. That characteristic comes by experience, training, discipline. Life just doesn’t just “happen” to someone. It takes work, effort to become someone with character.
It is about what you have become by your own efforts and the cooperation with the efforts of others – the willingness to become better than you are right now. This is a lifetime commitment. That is character.
If society were to be run by persons with no character, we would end up in a society where everyone would be allowed to do whatever they wanted. There would be no rule, no agreement on what is necessary to stabilize communities or governances. It would become anarchy.
And that is why character is important. Without it, people would have no need for laws. They would hurt others or the property of others with no reason to fear recourse. No one would care. Everyone would be too concerned about their own welfare and survival.
And sometimes when we look around us and how different groups of governing powers operate, we begin to wonder if that is what is already happening.
What it is not
It is not about demanding rights. It is not about demanding others to recognize you or your talents or abilities. Nor is it is about demanding rights not earned.
It is not about victimhood. Or jealousy of what others gained that you don’t have. It isn’t about equal rights or privileges. This all goes beyond race, color, gender, nationality, or anything else external to being a human being.
It isn’t destroying property or making violent acts to prove your position. Or about lying to protect your own vested interests. It isn’t about destroying the life or reputation of those you disagree with. It isn’t about shutting down or shutting out others because you don’t like them or the fact that they might be trying to stop you for whatever reason.
Character isn’t about how to get what you want at the expense of anyone else. It is about making yourself better than who you are right now.
How to you gain character
Set a goal. Figure out how to reach that goal. And stick to it. That is discipline.
Learn to get along with others. Work with others toward a common goal. If you don’t work well with the group of people you are with, find those who do. You’ll never achieve anything big without the support of a community of collaborators.
Don’t make excuses for not doing what you promised. If you can’t do the task, then confess that to those you promised, and see if there might be a way to accomplish the task another way or with help.
Be responsible for your actions:
Again, don’t make excuses. Eventually, when there is a track record of excuses for work undone, you will be considered unreliable and will no longer be called on to do anything. And how you react to what happens to you because of your choices shows what you are made of – what your character truly is.
True tolerance is the willingness to accept people for their opinions, even when they disagree with your own. It is the willingness to love them, even if they hate you. It is the ability to accept the fact that not everyone agrees with your view of life.
Take risks. Not everyone will go so far as to become a special ops soldier, but everyone does have to take risks to move forward in life. It could be something as simple as getting outside for a walk everyday, or being around people who are sick. Sometimes it means giving up something you love for the sake of something more important, like a cup of coffee from a place that doesn’t uphold your moral position. Big or small, courage is the ability to move outside your comfort zone and do something you don’t think you can do.
We often hear of “strength of character”. It means that someone is willing to face difficult moments in their life with courage, never letting go of the long term goal to succeed.
Be truthful. If you lie, very likely you will never have anyone be your friend. You need to be trustworthy, say what you mean, live your values, don’t make up excuses or try to skirt the issues, don’t make up stories to get someone to like you or do something for you. Be honest. What you do when no one is looking is who you really are.
Don’t stab someone else behind their back with your words. If you wouldn’t say something in front of them, why are you saying it when they aren’t around? Back up those you believe in. Don’t back down from that obligation. If you don’t support the people you believe in, you show yourself to be someone who wavers if the political or societal wind blows against them and what you say you stand for.
Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal, don’t destroy what you don’t own but take care of it better than what you own, do your job as promised and with diligence, be kind, treat others as you want to be treated.
You are what you have trained yourself, or been trained, to behave. If you have been trained to hate, you will hate unless you are willing to change out that bad behavior with a better one of loving your neighbor. If you decide you don’t want to eat healthy foods and exercise, you will be unfit until you decide to take on the better behavior of taking care of the body you were given. And if you don’t want to help someone in need, you will be less at peace than if you decide to take on the effort of helping those less fortunate than yourself. What you decide to be or become is up to you. It comes by habit – replacing a vice with a virtue – and becoming a better human being and member of society for it.
Loving and kindness:
Love those around you. Be kind to them even when they aren’t kind to you. They are made of the same stuff you are. You are human; so are they. No one is less than human, even those who do harm to others on purpose. You can hate what they do, but love them as a human being. Be kind to others and they will treat you with kindness. Even those who hate you will respect what you are in the end.
Anyone who hates to be around arrogant people take heed to this one. The greedy, self-focused narcissists are not admired by many. But those who serve for the sake of a humanitarian cause are. We are not talking about those who have “humanitarian causes” but rake in millions in profit off of what seems to be for the good of mankind; we are talking about those who selflessly take on a cause because it is the right thing to do, and it serves to help other human beings. People like Nelson Mandella and Mother Theresa are two who come to mind when others thinks of servants to humanity.
The list can go on for a long time. But gaining character is a long-term race. You cannot achieve it by wishing it to come to fruition.
The power of the mind
A good read on this subject is a little book entitled, “As A Man Thinketh” by James Allen. I’m not even sure if it’s in print anymore. But in the front, it makes a bold statement:
“Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes,
And man is Mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, as thousand ills: –
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking glass.”
Your character is built on what you think, what is in your mind. You can change it for the better, or you can live blaming others for your ills. You can learn to explore what is good, or rely on the “expertise of others” to decide your fate.
Character is built on your choices. And those choices start in the mind. Decide what you want to be, what you want to become. Then make the effort to become what you desire.
But to be someone great, build great character first. For what you become can rule your life in bad ways.
What about you?
You can become greedy and take advantage of others, changing and shaping their lives to your will by force, as tyrannical leaders have done and are doing throughout the history of man. Or you can use your powers of influence to fight for the dignity of those around you.
You can become selfish and never share of your excesses, always making excuses that you “need” something of more importance than the poor man who lives in a tent after losing all he had. Or you can become someone who give generously, helping those who came upon misfortune in their lives.
You can become someone who hides in the shadows, afraid to come out and fight for what is true and good, such as knowing about someone being abused but refusing to reach out and help. Or you could be someone with courage and take on the hurt of others by standing up for their right to freedom from fear.
Be someone you admire
Someone once said something that stuck with me: “Be someone you admire.” It means to be someone who is at peace inside, who respects others and what they possess. If you admire what they have or what they have become, imitate what they’ve done until you become what you admire. But do it your own way. Their way isn’t your own.
But most importantly, never, ever give up what is more important or significant in the process. Don’t become the greedy, self-centered, narcissistic person you hate to be around. Don’t consider yourself to be more important than you really are. Stay humble. Stay small. And you do that by giving away more than you need, serving instead of being served.
By doing these things, you will grow into a better human being. When you become that person everyone can look up to and trust, someone they see isn’t about themselves but about those they serve, you will have achieved a level of character that can’t be hidden under a bushel.
But remember who you are:
You are important, but your importance is determined by how well your character is built. The stronger the foundation, the more stable you as a person become, and the more dependable you are.
Be that person. Build your character. Don’t stop improving. Don’t wallow in self-pity. And most of all, don’t make excuses!
Instead, be a better human being.
You deserve it. So do those around you.
Remember, being human isn’t all about you. You are important, but you are part of the whole. What you do affects everyone else.
Character. The most important thing about being human.