To write about good character is to enter into one major trap of bad character–being moralistic. It’s easy to get on one’s high horse and quote scripture and dusty literary tales. We can risk coming off as prigs by attempting to shame certain “others” or using ourselves as examples. How does one address the issue of character without coming off as a sanctimonious, know-it-all moralist?
We don’t need to put ourselves nor anyone else up on pedestals to get a feeling about good character. Nor mustn’t we bury someone in scorn to know about bad character. There’s a little voice inside the head that seems to instinctively understand the distinctions.
These days, there seems to be an over abundance of questionable character and a yawning gap of positive character in our world. It almost seems that simple, good character has become an endangered species.
First of all, we need to put the concept of reputation aside for awhile. If a person has the traits of good character, reputation takes care of itself pretty much automatically. The aim for a good reputation, by itself, is another matter, altogether. It’s a concept that is subject to the impulsive whims of public opinion. We cannot get too wrapped up in what others think about us. We cannot control what people think, anyway.
Isn’t good character akin to faithfulness to self-respect, and nurturing of family, friends, and community? Isn’t good character a quiet reliance upon principles and honor? Don’t the people of good character simply guide their lives ethically and not make a big show of doing so? Don’t people of good character own it by adhering to a positive personal value system without sounding all high and mighty?
Lists to help people practice personal values can be easily found on the web. They are universal concepts that are independent of belief systems and governmental policing regimes. A very common list will probably include: Be honest. Demonstrate integrity. Keep promises. Be loyal. Be responsible and accountable (don’t pass the buck). Treat everybody with respect. Don’t harm others. Be kind and caring. Be fair. Be open-minded. Pursue excellence.
Basically, people of good character have the best foundation for fulfillment in life.