Character has many definitions
There are two definitions that I would like to talk about that I think gets confused today… at least one definition seems to dominate over the other.
When we talk about building Character, what I believe we are referring to is the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual, which is linked to a person’s good reputation.
What I think predominates the conversation (that is, the image that comes to mind nowadays) is the quality of being individual in an interesting/ unusual way, or basically an unusual and amusing person.
It is possible to be both, but if you have to choose, please be the former!
There are many great examples of people of great capital C, “Character”. I like to use public figures because they are easy to identify with. A good example of easily identified character is Dr. Martin Luther King. He, of course, is known primarily by his politics, but I think this was more because of his stellar reputation, then his message alone. Because, I believe, when you have ‘capital C’ character people, they are more inclined to take you seriously.
On the flip side, as a person with the other kind of character would be Bill Clinton; Very charismatic, and by many accounts, personally likable. He certainly qualifies as being “unusual” and even interesting, but never someone you would ever want around your kids due to his apparent lack of moral principle.
When I think of Character I think about my Dad
My Dad was a quiet man. He told me once that he chose to be an engineer because he preferred to work on problems with machines and computers rather than deal with people. He was certainly not what one would consider to be a “character,” but he was a man of character.
He would not have been selected as class president or ‘most popular’, but without him (or people like him) there would be no class, club, choir or any type of organization. My dad was steadfast and diligent. He was a pew warmer. You know the type, they don’t create waves and rarely drama, but they are always there at the same time, same place, year in and year out.
My dad always wore the same style plaid shirts and there was always a pen in his front shirt pocket. But, it was this consistency (particularly his moral consistency) that you knew you could count on. If someone had told me, or anyone for that matter, that my Dad did anything illegal or untoward, it would immediately be seen as absurd, such was the strength of his character.
That is the quality I believe we would all like to have
When we say something, we want to be believed. We want to be trusted and we want to know that if someone speaks ill of us behind our back that people will say, “really? I don’t buy that.” Then they would defend you.
However, a small sampling of current movies and TV shows display an abundance of the other kind of character. We all are encouraged to be unique, to express our individuality, even to the point of absurdity. We are all encouraged to be “a character”, rewarding the most flamboyant and promoting the latest scandal with reckless abandonment. Of course that is more entertaining and sells, but on the other hand, the men of steady character are often put down.
Mike Pence was mercilessly criticized for his family policy of not spending time alone with other women, even in the most innocent of circumstances. But, isn’t it reassuring that a person is more committed and dedicated to their marriage and cares more about what their wife thinks then what others do? That takes character, it certainly did not make him more popular.
Some will assert that his position is absurd, and while they “get” protecting a marriage, this is silly. But all I can say is that if I were his kid, I would be able to trust that he and mom were stable and would be around for me. I think that I would feel pretty secure in that home.
Another example of a man of Character is Tim Tebow
The reaction to him is extremely polarized, he is either loved or hated. Much of the antipathy appears to stem from his outward religious displays. The reaction is “come on dude, just play sports don’t involve me in witnessing anything that might make me uncomfortable.” I would hardly call his religious displays disruptive, but who am I? Let’s be honest, how hard is it for us nowadays to give at least a nod to our religion? It is super hard, because it is counter cultural. Even something as simple as saying grace before meals in public is embarrassing. It takes a significant amount of capital C, Character to show any outward religious practice.
I think that if we want to address the pressing problems of our times we need a little less “Anchorman” and a little more “Captain America.” it’s about time we gave our young men examples of true men of character and not men acting like adolescents, as examples to follow.
When I think about building character these are some of the traits I think about:
Fidelity, Honesty, Reliability, Perseverance, Conviction, and Confidence and I am sure that there are other attributes that you could list.
What do you think defines Character? Join the conversation and comment below.