What is Character?

We talk a lot nowadays about the importance of character and character development. We recognize that the best leaders are persons of character and integrity and that it is important to teach our children to have good character. But what is character?

Character is “the inward values that determine outward actions.”

Let’s break this definition down so that we can better understand.

Inward. Character deals with what is on the inside of a person – with the “heart.” It has to do with your inner beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and attitudes.

Values. Our values are those ideals (strongly held beliefs) that we embrace (choose for ourselves). They form the basis of our decisions. For example, if a student values getting good grades more than being honest, he or she might cheat on an exam to get a better grade. If another student values being kind more than being popular, he or she might help someone who is not part of the “in crowd,” even when friends might ridicule.

Determine. One thing leads to another. Just as the ingredients of a recipe determine how the food will taste, the values we hold determine the kind of decisions we make.

Outward. These are things – actions - that can be seen and heard on the outside. People make decisions about you and your character based on what they can see and hear.

Actions. Our physical and verbal activity is what makes up our actions. What we say and do (and what we refrain from saying and doing) reveals who we are and what we believe on the inside.

Malcolm Forbes, businessman and journalist, once said, “You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them.” In other words, you can tell what is inside of a person based on what they do on the outside – their behavior. This is especially true when they will get no reward or punishment for what they do.

You have probably heard the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” This means that what we actually do is a better indicator of who we are than what we say. For example, I might claim to love baseball, but if I never play it nor watch it, some might wonder if I really love it…or just claim to.

It is best when our words, actions, and inward values all line up in agreement. Not only are we happier, but others can depend on their impression of us. They aren’t surprised or put off when things don’t match.

It is important to not only help our children develop inner good character, but for us to display the same as well. We will live happier, more satisfied, and more consistent lives as a result.