Are you a character or do you have character?

December 2, 2015

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.”

antSome 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 tolazy 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

helping upThen 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 passed stampthat 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.

Three little words that can change your life… Walk the walk.

April 13, 2014

Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.

From the UK Web site  comes this explanation of the origin of that little phrase –

‘Walk the walk’ is almost always said in combination with ‘talk the talk’, for example, “if you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk”, or “walk it like you talk it”. This is a 20th century American alternative to various old sayings which epitomise the notion that ‘talk is cheap’, for example ‘actions speak louder than words’ and ‘practice what you preach’. The context for the use of any of these expressions is in response to what is seen as empty boasting. People who are accused of such are said (in the USA) to ‘talk a good game’ or (in the UK) to be ‘all mouth and no trousers’.

manspewing adviceHave you ever met or worked with people like that – people who talk the talk but then don’t walk the walk? These are the people who volunteer for something and then don’t show up; or, if the they do show up end up standing around chatting with people instead of actually doing whatever it is they volunteered to help with. Sometimes they are the people who are oh so good at telling others what they need to change about themselves; but whom, when challenged to make a change in themselves, protest that they’ll never change and that you just have to accept them as they are. You just want to yell at them – Walk the walk.

Perhaps you have met that “perfect mother” who always has advice for you about what you are doingblah-blah wrong with your kids; while, at the same time, she is oblivious to the fact that her kids are busy destroying something in your home or running amuck unsupervised. Maybe it’s the coach of your child’s little league sports team who never played the sport but who is now in charge of trying to teach them a game that he doesn’t understand himself. You tell yourself, well at least he volunteered; but, maybe he shouldn’t have.  Maybe it is someone at work who is constantly giving you advice about how to do your job better while ignoring the fact that they are failing to do their own job. You just want to tell these people – Walk the walk.

But, rather than spend your time worrying about those other people, you need to make sure that you look at your own behavior. Are you doing what you said you would do? When you make a commitment to be somewhere at as specific time, are you there on time? If you volunteer for a job, do you do the actual work or just stand around in the area and let others do the work? Are you offering advice to others that you don’t heed yourself? Are you good at talking the talk; when what others really want from you is that you Walk the walk.

It is easy to fall into the trap of being, as the British would put it “all mouth and no trousers.” In order to be the pleasant fellow that you want to portray, you can say “Sure, I’ll buy some Girl Scout Cookies from your daughter, just bring the order form around next week”; and then proceed to hide out until the order deadline has past. True masters at the art of talking the talk would use the next meeting with that person to say something like. “Gee, why didn’t you bring that order form around, I would have ordered several boxes.” They were never going to Walk the walk.

man with talk ballonThe difference between talking the talk and walking the walk is deception. It is a deception that you play upon others and upon yourself. You deceive yourself into believing that just saying that you will do something is enough to make everybody happy and everything OK. The deception on others is obvious – you lied – and that can be especially hurtful if they went ahead to make other commitments or plans based upon your bogus commitment to them. It’s just as bad to lie your way out of making a commitment.  Maybe you’ve seen the TV ads about the guy calling his “friends” for help on moving day – they all lied to him – they were talking a different kind of deception. Not one of them was a true friend willing to Walk the walk.

So, get out that trusty hand mirror that I have advised you to use on other occasions for self-reflection (unintended, but somehow appropriate pun) and ask yourself. Am I someone that others looking in mirrormistrust to be there when I commit to be? Do I sometimes just show up and not really jump in and do the work that I volunteered to do? Do I knowingly make promises or commitments that I can’t keep? Am I saying yes just to appease others with no intention of following through or do I have good intentions that just never materialize? If you’ve answered yes to the guy in the mirror on a few of these questions; perhaps you are guilty of talking the talk and you need to get real with yourself and others and commit to Walk the walk.

Making the changes needed to be the person that you really want to be isn’t hard, but it can involve making some choices that you’d probably rather avoid. To start with; don’t tell someone that you will do something when you know that you won’t. Don’t just say yes to appease someone else or to appear to be a nice person. If you’ve been asked to do something that you really don’t want to do, tell them that you can’t and ask them to keep you in mind for future needs. Then you might want to spend a little thought time on why you didn’t want to do what they ask you. Were you just being selfish with your time? Did you really have something more important to do; or were you like a lot of people and just hoping that something more fun might come along. How does that make you feel, once you admit that to yourself? They gave you the chance which you turned down to Walk the walk.

proudSo, here’s the very straightforward choice that you have to make every day, perhaps many times in each day. You have to choose to be a person who talks a good game, but whom others come to know as undependable; or you can choose to be honest with yourself and others around you and stand behind what you say you will do. Don’t give advice to others that you don’t (or won’t) follow yourself. Don’t pretend to be an expert on things that you know nothing about. And most important; only make commitments when you are committed to keeping them. Practice these things and you will be known as a person who can be trusted to Walk the walk.