Introduction: ‘Character’ is the best asset of human life. The real identity of a man lies in his character, and not in his wealth, power, or appearance. Nothing else pays so much in life as the character does. It is a noble virtue and glorious crown of a man.
Actually, Character is the combination of honesty, nobility, truthfulness, sympathy, and charity. It is the focus of all other virtues. The concept of character can imply a variety of attributes including the existence or lack of virtues such as empathy, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty, or of good behaviors or habits.
Psychologist Lawrence Pervin defines moral character as “a disposition to express behavior in consistent patterns of functions across a range of situations.” Similarly, the philosopher Marie I. George refers to the moral character as the “sum of one’s moral habits and dispositions.” Aristotle has said, “We must take as a sign of states of character the pleasure or pain that ensues on acts.”
What is a Character: The word “character” is derived from the Ancient Greek word “character”, referring to a mark impressed upon a coin. It’s certainly not a word that’s used as much as it once was. Cultural historian Warren Susman researched the rise and fall of the concept of character, tracing its prevalence in literature and the self-improvement manuals and guides popular in different eras. What he found is that the use of the term “character” began in the 17th century and peaked in the 19th century, Susman, writes, that embodied “culture of character.”
During the 1800s, “character was a keyword in the vocabulary of Englishmen and Americans,” and men were spoken of as having strong or weak character, good or bad character, a great deal of character or no character at all. Young people were admonished to cultivate real character, high character, and noble character and told that character was the most priceless thing they could ever attain. Starting at the beginning of the 20th century, however, Susman found that the ideal of character began to be replaced by that of ‘personality’. But character and personality are two very different things.
Qualities of True Character: In the military field, the character is considered particularly relevant in the leadership development area. Military leaders should not only “know” theoretically the moral values but they must embody these values. To better understand the nature of the character, James Davison Hunter who laid out the 3 qualities of true character in his modern book, The Death of Character:
- Moral Discipline – The one quality most associated with a character in the nineteenth century was self-mastery the dominion of an individual over his impulses and desires so that he was in control of them, and not the other way around. A man of self-mastery embodies the kingship of self-control and can direct his will and make his own choices, rather than being a slave to his base impulses. ‘Moral discipline’ is also a quality that not only allows a man to bear hardship stoically but even to actively seek out a rougher, more austere life, one that eschews the kind of indulgence that deprives character of needed training and leads to softness.
- Moral Attachment – The pursuit of character does not have as its sole end the cultivation of the self. Susman notes that it is in fact “a group of traits believed to have social significance and moral quality,” and he found that the most popular quote related to the character during the nineteenth century was Ralph Waldo Emerson’s definition of it as: “Moral order through the medium of individual nature.” This is to say that character has always been about something greater than self and included the self as part of a community. Moral attachment means being committed to a set of higher ideals and to acting, and if need be, sacrificing, for the greater good of one’s community.
- Moral Autonomy – Character cannot develop in an environment in which ethical decisions are forced upon the individual. Character is a product of judgment, discretion, and choice born from a man’s free agency. A decision that is coerced cannot be a moral decision, and thus cannot be a decision of character.
To build up character needs determination, practice, observation, imitation, clarity of thoughts and visions, etc. A person should be determined to practice the activities of great men and women with his clarity of thought and vision. All the religious scriptures have indicated the formation of character. They have cited some points according to which one can form one’s character. Hearing from the eminent olamay kerams and wise men of the country, one can form one’s character.
Importance of Character: Character is of great importance in man’s life. “Wealth lost, nothing is lost, health lost, something I lost and character lost, everything is lost.” Goes a wise maxim to signify character. It can win people’s hearts, satisfy people and fortify the base of becoming great in life. It is a sunshine that shoots its brightness on people around. Character leads a man and his nation to the top level of development and prosperity. It is supreme quality and virtue that makes one popular, faithful, trustworthy, and one’s life crowned with success. Character fetches success, happiness, prosperity, social status to the man of character. A poor man with a stainless character can be respected, no doubt. The character is a good quality that makes a man really great in society. It never misguides anyone. Man can win people’s minds by dint of character.
Conclusion: Abraham Lincoln once said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Character indicates good deals, good thoughts, and good habits. ‘The character is the crown and glory like the rose’; that spreads its fragrance all around.