How do we develop character?

Character is to man what carbon is to steel – (Napoleon Hill)

Character: A snapshot

We are born as diamonds in the rough, uncut but with the potential of great value. Over the years we cut away at our undesirable traits, exposing many facets of our goodness. The brilliant diamond that we are shaping is our character. Our final creation is fashioned by our will, for each cut of the diamond is a choice we make. It is not by what we say or do that our worth is measured, but by what we are. Thus, Charlotte Saunders Cushman writes, No artists work is so high, so noble, so grand, so enduring, so important for all time, as the making of character.

And as John Luther writes, Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are, to some extent, a gift. Good character, by contrast, is not given to us. We have to build it piece by piece — by thought, choice, courage and determination.

Character: The mechanics

How do we develop character? First we decide what it is that we value. A value is one of many goals that we consider more important than passing desires. It is the rudder of a ship that guides us to our destination. And the fuel for the ship is self-control. For example, my wife says she wants to speak to me, but I feel like (desire) sleeping or watching TV. So, what do I do? If I value a good family life, I will use self-control to curb my desire for sleep or entertainment and listen to what my wife wants to say. By doing so, I stay on course and develop my character.

Other ways of developing character include hanging out with people of good character, reading biographies of people we respect and following their examples, studying ethics, volunteering, and respecting others. Before choosing someone as a role model for character development, be sure that they can preach a better sermon with their life than with their words. One of the best ways to judge a persons character is to see how they describe anothers. An additional clue is how they treat the powerless.

To grow in character, we should take advantage of every opportunity, for as William James writes, No matter how full a reservoir of maxims one may possess, and no matter how good ones sentiments may be, if one has not taken advantage of every concrete opportunity to act, ones character may remain entirely unaffected for the better.

More about character

We would like to be happy and successful; dont you agree? If so, character is important because as we develop it, we shape our destiny. Also, to succeed, we need the cooperation of others, and cooperation is based on trust. But although geniuses are admired, the wealthy, envied, and the powerful, feared, only men of character are trusted.

Our character defines who we are. Its what we will be remembered for. Therefore, as Charles Haddon Spurgeon writes, A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you, and were helped by you, will remember you when forget-me-nots are withered. Carve your name on hearts, and not on marble.

If we are lacking in character, blaming our circumstances for our weaknesses is just like blaming the mirror for the way we look. Instead of casting blame, we need to cast a new mold. We need to keep chipping away at our faults. Although one cannot control the length of their life, they can control its breadth, depth, and height through character development. In fact, theres no limit to the height we can attain by remaining on the level. Finally, lets heed Bayard Taylors comments, Fame is what you have taken, character is what you give. When to this truth you awaken, then you begin to live.


  1. I really enjoyed this insightful and well-written article. I find it sad that character is completely overshadowed by artifice in today’s society. Building character requires tireless self-awareness and much inner strength, among other qualities. I feel the latter has far greater, and enduring, currency in the world because, when the chips are down, we’ll need people with formidable character to guide us through.

  2. Very well written article. It is sad and frightening at same time existing in todays society, watching, participating…then the awakening… That not only is there such a lack of character & integrity in todays world, much more than we realize such qualities are NOT being taught early in our homes and our schools. By the time this youth reaches young adulthood they don’t even know what these things are let alone attempting to build on them! It’s sad but so true…there should be more sites like these up in our homes & schools instead of the day to day garbage our kids are viewing now. Scary thinking about the future.

  3. thanks for the information,i m trying hard to build up my character.i appreciate it a lot.This is how to be a real successful people in this real world. Hope everyone get to read this awesome article.

  4. thankx for the information it will help me building up my christian charater and whith jesus

  5. Well written article, I hope a lot of folks can read this and benefit from the excellent information and analogies.

  6. Excellent article…we need to teach integrity and character in primary and secondary classrooms everywhere nowadays. The moral fiber of young folks today is sinking at a spiraling rate.

  7. Integrity and personal character should be incorporated into the primary/secondary classrooms today for such is not being taught at home unfortunately. Back in the ’80s I enrolled at the university level in an ethics course and my advisor tried gearing me towards a different course altogether, saying being didn’t need such teachings any longer -> I totally disregarded this advisor when it came to enjoying this class and learned much from it.

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