Somewhere in the last week or so I was half-listening to or watching a show – either on TV or on the radio. (That will tell you how much attention I was paying to it – not only do I not remember the show, I don’t even remember the medium.) Anyway, somewhere in there I heard someone refer to character as being old-fashioned.
That really struck me. My first reaction was, “What? What’s he talking about???” And then I thought, “Huh…he might have a point.” And I’ve been thinking about it off and on ever since.
A person’s character used to be really important, both to himself and to those around him. It was almost a currency of its own. Business deals didn’t always require reams of legal paper – a handshake or spoken commitment between two people of “strong character” was as binding or more than signatures on said legal papers. Even if those legal papers were still involved, they were more of a technicality; the handshake or verbal agreement was the “true” contract.
But does having a strong character matter any more? Is it something that really has become old-fashioned, and not in that trendy “retro” way? I know it matters for some people. I’ve met them. But it seems to be the exception more than the rule these days. I mean, when’s the last time you thought about your own character? Or when’s the last time you thought about or talked about someone else’s character? (Just to be clear, we’re not talking about LARP here… 😉 )
For that matter…do we even know what character is?
Google says it is “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” Educationplanner.org says: “Your character is the sum of all the qualities that make you who you are: your values, your thoughts, your words, your actions.”
There are a plethora of other definitions you could find, too. We could spend days going into it indepth – even to further define things like “mental and moral qualities”. But this is enough to at least get us on the same page, or close to the same page. Certainly enough for the purposes of this post, which is to just get us thinking about it.
Essentially, I think, our character is the guts of who we really are. It’s an internal thing that drives a lot of how we interact with the world and people around us. It has nothing to do with the things we have, our income bracket, or our physical attributes. It’s not what spurs the decision to swipe left or right on Tinder. It might take a while to truly understand someone’s character. Hmmm… it might take a while to even understand our own character – what it currently is as well as what we want it to be.
So again, does it matter any more? There are all kinds of plans out there to help us:
- get more money
- get in shape
- lose weight
- find the person of our dreams.
But there aren’t very many dedicated to helping us develop our character. I even found one that is dedicated to helping you develop your “character habits” – what habits to get into that will bring you success, not for the sake of having a good character, but to help you get more stuff. Kind of like faking a good character. Seems to miss the point. But, to each their own.
Our character is the foundation of who we are as individuals, and individuals are the foundation of families, communities, societies, countries, etc. If that’s the case, then for families, communities, et al to have strong foundations, they need strong individuals. For individuals to be strong, they need strong characters. For us to have strong characters, we should at least know what that is and what kind of character we want to have. Then we need to know what to do in order to develop that type of character.
I’m not saying that trying to have more financial and professional success is a bad thing. Nor is striving for physical goals. I’m just wondering if maybe we shouldn’t also start thinking at least a little bit more about our character than we currently do.
What do you think?