Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character. –Heraclitus
Character Counts. The great wisdom figures remind us, again and again and again. They also remind us that adversity reveals character; adversity does not build character. The English Oxford Dictionary defines Character as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.
Consider this question: What are the tap roots that feed, nurture and sustain our Character? Our thoughts. We become our thoughts. Our emotions. We are emotional beings. Our Core values and Core guiding principles. These are ‘Core’ because to the best of our ability we will not compromise them. Our core deep tacit assumptions. In addition to being ‘core’ they are also ‘deep’ in that many of them are not conscious; it takes some effort to emerge, discern and name them. They are ‘tacit’ for they function automatically; we experience them, not as ‘assumptions’ but as ‘reality.’ We add to these our prejudices and stereotypes. We integrate these during our ‘formation years’ and they become ‘real’ and ‘true.’
During our formative years we develop our character in response to our culture (think: family, peers, faith-tradition, communal experiences, etc.). Our charge as we develop into mature human beings is to discern and name the character traits that we have integrated and evaluate them and then decide which to keep and which to let go of and which to take on and integrate. This, as we know, is no easy charge/challenge.
Perhaps the greatest challenge is the first one: What are the character traits that I need to pay attention to? What are my ‘Core Values’? A value does not have to be a ‘virtue;’ a value can be a ‘vice.’ I am thinking of the person who has integrated a core value of ‘greed.’ At times we need the ‘other’ to act as a mirror and reflect to us a value that is ‘core’ to our being (at times the most power ‘other’ is the stranger; too often those who are in my ‘community’ do not act as effective mirrors).
What are my ‘Core Guiding Life Principles?’ For one person it might be ‘to act at all times rooted in moral integrity.’ For another it might be ‘to do whatever it takes to win.’
The most challenging to emerge into my consciousness are my core deep tacit assumptions. For example, do I assume that people are inherently evil? Do I assume that people are inherently good? Do I assume that people are driven mainly by self-interest? Do I assume that people are inherently trust-worthy?
I have found that striving to emerge, name and ‘own’ my core values, core guiding life principles and core deep tacit assumptions is an important – if not ‘the’ important – challenge when it comes to understanding my ‘Character.’
So, Gentle Reader, I invite you to emerge, name and ‘own’ the core values, core guiding life principles and core deep tacit assumptions that compose the major tap roots that feed, nurture and sustain your ‘Character.’ Then I invite you to decide which to ‘let go of,’ ‘which to hang onto,’ and ‘which to embrace and integrate.’
Only a person’s character is the real criterion of worth. –Eleanor Roosevelt