Character is an interesting topic to discuss. It is essentially an internal trait that manifests itself in the eyes of others in the form of reputation. Abraham Lincoln put it this way –
“Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.”
Some people get reputations that are good. Others may use terms to describe these people such as dependable, reliable, hard-working, concerned, compassionate and on and on. That’s having a good reputation based upon good character. For others the resulting reputation is not so great. Terms used to describe them may include lazy, undependable, a no-show, flaky, self-centered, selfish or diva.
So, while character and reputation oft go hand-in-hand; sometimes people may just misunderstand your actions or lack of action. You may get an undeserved reputation and you sometimes just have to let some of that run off your back. There is an old say that you need to be true to yourself. You know what’s in your heart, even if it never makes it out onto your sleeve.
John Wooden had a good take on the character/reputation duality –
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
You often hear that character is built through hard work or that it comes out of dealing with adversity. Hard work is also what shows off your character –
“Hard work spotlights the character of people: Some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses and some don’t turn up at all.” (Sam Ewing – baseball player) – seen recently on the Jack’s Winning Words Blog.
If you don’t show up at all or turn up your nose at hard work you soon gain a reputation as being a “fair weather friend” or maybe no friend at all. You become a character, rather than someone with character
Then there is the side of your character that begets a reputation for being a genuinely good person, someone who cares and acts out of that compassion; someone who is not just focused upon things and people who can advance their own cause; someone who does not take advantage just because the opportunity presents itself. Abigail Van Buren (of Dear Abbey fame) put it this way –
“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”
So; what do people think of you? Do they see you as a person of good character or just as a character? Do they see a person who works hard or a person who hardy works? Do they see your shadow or the strong, dependable truck of your tree? Do you turn up your sleeves and jump in to help or jump back and turn up your nose; or do you just not turn up at all. It’s your character and your reputation and both are up to you. John C. Geikie put it this way
“Our character is but the stamp on our souls of the free choices of good and evil we have made through life.”
Perhaps the stamps that we collect on our souls are like the hand stamps that you get at an event venue when you leave and want to re-enter; only, in this case, we’re not trying to get back in to this venue, but to get to another, much bigger and better venue; one that we will stay in forever. So, we’d better make sure that we make the right choices and collect the right stamps on our souls. Don’t be a character; develop good character.
Have a great, character building rest of the week.