What is character anyway?


Character reflects who we really are

Character: The word is all over our website, our blog, our social channels; it’s even in our name. And developing it is our mission. But what is character? And why does it matter?

Jackson Brown, Jr., is credited with saying that our character is what we do when we think no one is looking. It’s the difference between acting kind and being kind, between pretending to care and actually caring, and serving out of altruism rather than for personal benefit. Character is the foundation for all true success.

Character as a cultural concept

People began using the concept of character in the 17th century, and its popularity peaked in the 19th century, according to Warren Susman in “Culture as History.” But in the 20th century, people traded the notion of identifying themselves by the quality of their character in order to identify themselves by their personality, hobbies and material possessions—away from achievement and toward performance. It signaled a transition traded being the type of person they wanted to be for advertising themselves as they wanted to be perceived.

Traits of someone with character

When we say achievement, we are referring to achieving a higher level of character or ethics. It’s an amalgam of honesty, integrity, compassion, humility and forgiveness, patience and self-control.

And it’s marked by truly caring about those around us—uplifting others when they’re down, encouraging people facing challenges and befriending those who appear lonely. It can be as simple as holding a door open for the person behind you.

How to develop character

Character can’t be built in a day, nor can it sustain itself once achieved. Character requires continuous practice first to acquire it, then to keep it. But how do we practice character? The same way Benjamin Franklin did and the same way we practice everything else. Just like to learning to play the piano, serve a tennis ball or become a good cook, we need to focus on the one thing that needs the most work.

That’s what Character Dares do. They challenge you to target a specific trait each week and practice it. Need help getting started? We can help. Every Monday we issue a new Character Dare on our Facebook page that helps you focus on a practical, character-building activity to practice all week long. Need to work on something else, see our past dares. Whatever way you approach it, you can’t help but improve through regular practice.

Why character matters

When you think about our schools, neighborhoods and businesses, all will thrive better with more individuals of high character. Our leaders will work to serve first and foster the growth of others. The world around us will become kinder, more compassionate and tolerant. People will feel their worth and acknowledge the same in others. We can and we will make the world a better place.

Character Lives