Over the last few weeks I’ve been unpacking the traits of truth, trust and learning and how they’ve helped me in my own personal relationships. A good way of thinking about the principles is as the three points of a triangle. In this article I’m going to explore what is in the centre of all of us…..our character.
Many people confuse doing good as their character. Doing good is the result of good character and NOT character in itself. What is character? One dictionary defines good character as:
“The stable and distinctive qualities built into an individual’s life which determine his or her response regardless of circumstances.”
A stable person often has a set of values that form the bedrock of their life. These values determine how they interact with others and how they respond to circumstances. Notice, that I haven’t made a judgement call on what the values are.
Some people have a value of selfishness that results in every interaction they have being focused on benefiting them. From their perspective life is all about accumulating more rather than giving out.
I’ve met other people that have a character trait of servanthood. You find these types of people helping out wherever they can, and are happy as long as other people are being lifted up from their own circumstances.
In my diagram below the character traits of truth, trust and learning provide a safeguard against developing a “bad” character trait. For example, it’s very difficult to become self-centred if you are wanting trusting relationships.
A good way to think of truth, trust and learning is as the guardians of your heart. We’re all not perfect but if we keep on focusing on how we interact with others then we are much less likely to inadvertently develop bad foundations in our life.
If our character determines how we react to circumstances, then how did it first get developed and was this a good way? Most people don’t consciously work on their character but rather just roll on through life. They are blissfully ignorant of the fact that their character is what is guiding their reactions to others.
I’ve said to my own children (who are now adults) that the biggest adventure in life is discovering things about yourself. It’s also often the most difficult journey as you look in the mirror and recognise a character trait that may need “a little work”. The thing about character is it takes a huge amount of effort and time to bring even a small change.
There’s no quick fixes when it comes to your character. We can be working on a bad temper and fall into the trap of yelling at a colleague…..we feel terrible because we’ve failed yet again. That’s OK, because one of our heart’s guardians is learning. Apologise to the person you yelled at and move on.
The questions I would like to leave you with are; “Why do you respond the way you do?” Do you control your behaviour, or do you find yourself reacting to circumstances? Do you need some time-out to go and ponder your life and become deterministic about developing your character in a positive manner?
All good questions that I hope you get a chance to think about across this weekend.