Friday, April 24, 2009

In Search of Character

Photo via Mshrobot


I have been intrigued by the concept of character for a long time. Sometimes I think it is semantically overused and people do not think about it in depth. What is it? Why is it important? Why do I value it? Why am I so gravitated to understand it, to have 'good' character? What is the difference between character and reputation? I do not have the answers to all these questions, but I'll try to send some light on the matter.

Character, as I see it, is the fundamental self. It is the 'you' that is beyond social constructions: that is, more than how you see yourself and how others see you. Character is deeper than that. Often, you can't pinpoint your exact character. You can have an idea of it, yes; but I think character is that 'fundamentalness' underneath you. People might see you as courageous. You might see yourself as courageous. But, in a moment of danger - a fire, an accident, with no one else around - you are forced to confront a self that lies dormant. How you act, and if you act in that moment, with courage, well, I think that it is insight into one's character. Or another example. People might see you as successful. You might not see yourself in that way. But, in reality - the reality that is beyond people's perception - lies a character, a person, trying to do his best, influencing others and trying his best. That is the real character.

We get glimpses of people's character. But 'tis rare I think. Character is beyond roles and repetuation. Character is deeper. As buddhas has points out, "Within us lies the power of enlightement." Spiritual traditions place emphasis on the after-life and, in so, in many ways, it brings out character. Christianity parables often describe how 'only God knows the true you." Maybe that is character. Character is your fundamental goodness. Or your darkness. You pick. You decide what you want to be your character.

The cure for a failing country is the character of man. It starts with each of us growing a moral and spiritual backbone. The work has to start on the inside and work its way out as a manifestation of character. Without authentic and noble character, all else has little meaning.

Character vs. titles

Many people put far too much emphasis on a position, title or credentials. Often they are defined by that title. Notice when you ask someone what they do, the bigger the title the more it is said proudly. I’m not saying not to be proud of what you do just to be proud of the person behind the title.

Character vs. reputation

Reputation is very important to many people. They run around trying to protect their reputation. Reputation is theirs, character is yours. Your reputation is made up from the opinions of others. It’s their opinion not yours. Trying to shape everyone’s thought of you is not only futile, but also causes you to lose yourself. It becomes hard for you to tell the difference between whom you are and who people think you

Character vs. personality

Today we confuse personality with character. But they are two different things. The difference is nature and demeanor. Character is your nature, who and what you are made of on the inside. Personality is more closely related to demeanor, it’s what people perceive you to be. Personality is the outward projection of your character. However, from time to time personality can be misunderstood. Sometimes people can mistake your intentions for something else. Have you ever heard the phrase “She made a mistake but her heart was in the right place”. Only through the stiffening of the moral fiber will you get the “benefit of the doubt” when your personality or intentions are misunderstood.

Character is what inside of us all, good or bad. I read a book by once that said “If you squeeze an orange what comes out?” Orange juice is the obvious answer. You can’t squeeze it and get tomato juice. What is inside comes out. In life we’re put in situations that test our character. Who we are inside comes out. If you want to know what’s in a person apply pressure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Eddie! very good post! What exactly is character? It's possibly the hardest of all to define, because the others, being so external, are as a result, so obvious, but character is the odd one out because it is internal and hence so elusive. You got me thinking. But like you said, it comes down to the essence of who you are. Like the orange juice.

Mate, hope you're doing well over there!!