The reports in the media about violent behaviour, dishonest practices, intolerant responses and unnecessary cruelty reveal that there is a great and urgent need for us to develop people of good character. We must talk a lot more about what is good character and how our character can help us to respond well to situations. Parents, teachers, friends and colleagues can help and guide each other and young people to develop good character. In this post I would like to review the definitions of character, the ways we develop character and what people of good character are like. I will also discuss the behaviour of people of good character.

What Is Character?

One dictionary definition of character is “the inherent complex of attributes that determines a person’s moral and ethical actions and reactions”. Character is the moral core of personhood. It is also the foundation of one’s personality. It has been described as the visible sign of our inner nature. What is most important is that character affects our judgements and decisions. If we have the character trait of honesty, we will respond honestly in all situations and we will be honest in all our undertakings. Likewise if we have the character trait, tolerance, we will be more accepting of others, of different religions and cultures. Kevin Ryan’s statement about good character explains concisely why we need good character. He said, “Good character is knowing the good, loving the good, and doing the good.”

Developing Character

We develop character from the education that we experience and the upbringing that is provided to us. Herbert Spencer said that, “Education has for its object the formation of character.” We acquire character traits also by watching and imitating others. Families and friends play a major role in helping us to develop character. Developing character is an on-going process. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Character building begins in our infancy and continues until death”.

People with good character achieve personal excellence. They are able to attract others to work with them and to interact with them. People are more inclined to collaborate with us if we have good character. They are also more likely to trust us. People with bad character invite trouble from others, from societies and from organisations. They make mistakes and they treat others cruelly and roughly.

People of Good Character

People of good character move with confidence and are positive. They believe that good things are possible. They are generally enthusiastic and constructive thinkers who are always on the lookout for new opportunities. People of good character have good self-esteem. They are creative and dynamic. They can inspire and influence others.

Behaviour of People with Good Character

People of good character are, as someone said, “who we are, even when no one is watching.” You would not take something that does not belong to you just because you may think that you can get away with it. You would not cheat your clients even if you believe that no one would learn about it. People of good character will behave correctly because it is proper to do so.

They live honourably and they keep to Principles. People of good character tell the truth and they do not cheat. They will keep their promises be it to colleagues, friends or clients. They will honour their commitments, pay their debts and return what they may have taken from you. These people will be loyal to everyone. They will not let others down.

People of good character will treat others well. They will respect their dignity, privacy and freedom. People of good character will respect the beliefs or practices of others. Such people too appreciate and are accepting of individual differences. They will also respect other people’s property and they will not destroy, deface or damage the same. You could describe these people as unique individuals. When they make judgements of people they will judge them on their character, abilities and conduct. They will not do so on the basis of bias and prejudice.

Generally these people will always strive to resolve disagreements. They are polite and will always be ready to undertake duties and tasks assigned to them. They will accept responsibility and they will perform responsibly. People of good character will avoid making excuses and they will develop a sense of duty.

One other feature of people of good behaviour is that they will always do their best for whatever task or project that they may be doing. They also do not give up and they control their emotions well. Such people will act rationally and not make poor decisions. They are also open-minded and are fair and just.

People of good character are also considerate of the needs and feelings of others. They are compassionate and they can feel the problems and anxieties which others may be experiencing. Generally people of good character are kind and loving. They think nothing about giving their time, money and support to the less fortunate. By doing so they show that they care.

Finally people of good character will observe rules and work within the law. They will look after the environment and not spoil it. They will think before they act and they will be accountable for their deeds.

I leave you with this poem by Howard A. Walter

“I would be true, for there are those who trust me;
I would be pure, for there are those who care;
I would be strong, for there are those who suffer;
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.
I would be friend of all— the foe, the friendless;
I would be giving, and forget the gift;
I would be humble, for I know my weakness;
I would look up, and laugh, and love, and lift.”

Speak Your Mind