Abraham Lincoln said, “Reputation is the shadow. Character is the tree.” Our character is much more than just what we try to display for others to see, it is who we are even when no one is watching. Good character is doing the right thing because it is right to do what is right. Part 4 of our series “Choices” takes a look at a topic that is rarely talked about, but everyone broadcasts to the world everyday: character. It’s simple: you become what you consume. Become a person of good character When you get older, you learn things you wished you knew when you were younger. Like how you should not go for the one who is the most attractive if you are looking for a meaningful relationship, but go for the one who has character. Only going for looks will get you a fun time. But making a judgement based off of character will cause you to have some of the longest, worthwhile times of your life. (And yes, attractive people can have character too – but this statement is about going off of looks alone). A person with character will NEVER cheat on you.

In a social media, all about me, look what I have, consume don’t invest filled world – character has gone by the way side. Or has it? Actually it hasn’t. Character just keeps people from doing certain things so you don’t see it in environments where bad character exists, like social media. There are more people with GOOD character than you think. Working with young people, I see examples of good character all the time – and I make sure to point it out. But when I see bad character, it usually does not come as a surprise. Maya Angelou said: “when someone shows you who they are, believe them”. Part 3 of our series was about personal responsibility. This post goes hand in hand, as people with good character always take responsibility for their actions.

Let’s look at a few examples and see if you can tell good character from bad character. These are just examples and are not based on actual events.

You are told that a sponsor has agreed to pay for your travel if you make arrangements with their office by a certain date. You have several conversations via email about taking care of this process. A month after the deadline, and three days before your trip, you decide to request that the sponsor take care of your travel – at the highest price possible (travel costs more the closer to your event date). The sponsor tells you that there is nothing that they can do because the deadline has passed and the amount far surpasses the budget – however they could have provided travel back when they first reached out. You go to the event on your own and speak with someone who has no knowledge of any conversations you had and proceed to put the blame on the sponsoring agency. It was 100% their fault. The person you are telling your story to feels sorry for you and goes into their own pocket and gives you the money. This person now has some very strong feelings and words for the sponsoring agency. Would you say this person has good character? Takes personal responsibility?
You ask someone who has been somewhat reliable in the past to write 3 paragraphs of a grant for you. You tell them the three things needed for the grant and when the deadline is. You miss the first deadline by two days and you send in your work, but it does not have any of the three things you asked for in it. You bring this up to them and they say they will fix it, but they are not feeling well, but they assure you they will still do it by your next and final deadline. You check in on them because you still have not received it. They again assure you it will be in by the deadline, they are just not feeling good at the moment. You notice they are very active on Facebook during this time so you offer to just do it yourself and give them a way out. They then proceed to tell you that won’t be necessary and that they will do it that day. Your deadline comes and goes. You lose the funding. You have yet to hear back from them and they still have a very active Facebook page. Would you say this person displayed good character here? Do you expect them to ever bring it up to you with an explanation?
You hear that someone has made a very damaging, yet true, claim about you. Before it becomes widespread, you divert attention by leaking a very damaging claim about someone else to divert attention off of you. Would you say this person has good character?
Red backgroundExample number 3 is a true story. In fact the person in the example who showed bad character was me. And I felt extremely bad about it. In fact, you could say it was my “one shining moment” because it was a person who I actually admired – as did many people. A few weeks later, after knowing that what I had did to him, he called my name, shook my hand and spoke to me like nothing ever happened. He had good character. No one had ever taught me about character and why it is important. Good character is doing the right thing because it is right to do what is right. Simple. Character is not about getting upset because someone called you out on your mess, but taking responsibility for YOUR own actions. For every action, there is a reaction. Focus on what YOU did, not the response of someone you hurt. Hurt people, hurt people.

In example 1. The right thing to do would have been to either stay home, or tell the truth. The truth might have brought the same outcome financially, but the relationship between the business partners who had sponsored each others events before would not have been in jeopardy. In example 2, the person should have either never agreed to write, or taken the way out that was offered. This would have given them more time to post updates on Facebook without causing friction between the two parties. In my example, I should have not cared about rumors. I later found out that what I heard – never happened. But because I was not a person of good character…you get the picture.

The good thing about aging is with it comes maturity. This may be the first time you have every heard about character. It took me a while to learn about character, but once I did, the drama in my life, that I brought into my life (probably due to karma) drastically disappeared.

The best way to have good character is to practice good habits. Bad company corrupts good character.


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