Helping others Builds Character |Ben White | Unsplash.com

Building an outstanding Character

“How noble and good everyone could be if, at the end of each day, they were to review their own behavior and weigh up the rights and wrongs.” – “The Diary of a Young Girl,” by Anne Frank

What is Good Character?

 Before we build our outstanding character, let’s define what it is. The Cambridge Dictionary defines character as “the particular combination of qualities of a person who makes them different from others.” These qualities or traits make you who you are, a unique individual. There are lists of these traits that claim to be exhaustive, list of the excellent traits, list of traits for writers so they can build characters for their stories, etc.  For this brief article, we are going to focus on outstanding character traits and how you can develop and live them in your life. Keep in mind that qualifiers like outstanding represent value judgments. And just as you do in determining fake news, test the source and understand the author’s framework.

Outstanding character examples

 Character is what you display when my wife calls at 3am and says the kitchen is flooding because the project that you were working on with me blew a gasket. You don’t roll over and go back to sleep; you get up and come over, deal with the problem. We can count you on when things go wrong. (I was out of town.) Or character is what you display when you pick up the wrong briefcase at the airport and figure it out a few months later and contact the owner and send it to them. And finally, character shines through when you turn in your rental car and are late for your flight and leave your computer in the trunk and they call the next day to say they found it.

What traits should we develop?

 “We are builders of our own characters. We have different positions, spheres, capacities, privileges, different work to do in the world, different temporal fabrics to raise; but we are all alike in this, — all are architects of fate.”-John Fothergill Waterhouse Ware

 Much like an architect who designs a house, we must choose those traits or features that we will use to make our character. But we don’t start from scratch, we start from our backgrounds, the character of our parents, our church, and of our friends. By the time we are you adults and enter the workforce, we have many traits. Others have, by example, helped us with our initial set of traits. But as the quote from ware states, “we are the builders of our own characters.” Be the character you want to be. Build away.

 Character is the sum of the qualities or traits that others see when they interact with us. The Chartercounts.org developed six pillars of character which reflect core ethical values. They are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. I would agree with their organization. If I have outstanding character, I am 

Trustworthy– I will be honest, reliable, and keep my promises.

Respectful of others- I treat people with the respect I expect to receive. I respond in a thoughtful, peaceful way.

Responsible– I do what I am supposed to do, plan, and think before I act. I am accountable for my actions. I don’t take advantage of or look for loopholes.

Fairness– In a discussion, I want us both to walk away satisfied. No one is the winner. I want to be open-minded and especially listen fully to others. Don’t look to blame, look to dialogue, and solve the problem.

Caring– I want to be kind and compassionate. I want to help those in need and fight for food and economic security.

Citizenship- I want to take part in the election process but from a thoughtful base. I want to make sure my vote reflects my character values. I want to help my community become a place of equality for all.

How to build your character.

 “You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.”- Henry David Thoreau

 Building your character requires work. It requires self-evaluation and introspection. Your character reflects who you are at your core. Here are 5 things you can do to help you build an outstanding character.

Identify the 5 people you look up to the most and list three characteristics you associate with each person. How many of these are traits do you have? For each one you don’t think you have, think about how you can include them as part of you.

Journal about the traits you want to have that you don’t think you have. Write why you don’t think you have the trait. What do you need to do to include this trait in your future you? Identify the simple steps you can take to make this trait a part of you and take action.

Identify what you consider being your undesirable traits. In your journal, write the steps you need to take to change them. Change is hard. So remember, it doesn’t happen overnight. One of my worst traits is that I don’t fully listen, I’m always working on the next thing I want to say in my head. Unfortunately, because of this, I often miss parts of what they said. Learn to listen. It is ok to have a quiet space in a conversation. Listen, pause, then respond.

Think about the inconsistencies in your life. What are traits reflected in these behaviors? Do I want to change them? If yes, what do I need to do to change each of them? Take action.

 As you can tell, we reflect all of our traits in our daily lives. How we respond to a stimulus reflects our traits, either good or bad. Remember, between the stimulus and our response, there is a space to think about what our response should be. Be sure to use this moment, so you show your outstanding behavior and not your bad. how does the quote below make you feel?

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”-Martin Luther King.