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.