Abraham Lincoln said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
So, what is character? Character is a complex family of feelings, behaviors and thoughts and is the core of who we are. It is what is inside every one of us. Research conducted all over the world shows that we humans share the same basic 24 character strengths. The difference is how much we have of the strengths.
Character Strengths are divided into six Core Virtues and each virtue is divided into related Character Strengths. The virtues and their related strengths are:
- Creativity: Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are.
- Curiosity: You like exploration and discovery.
- Judgment: You think things through and examine them from all sides.
- Love-of-Learning: You have a passion for mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge.
- Perspective: People who know you consider you wise.
- Bravery: You do not shrink from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain.
- Honesty: You live your life in a genuine and authentic way.
- Perseverance: You work hard to finish what you start.
- Zest: You approach everything you do with excitement and energy.
- Kindness: You are kind and generous to others.
- Love: You value close relations with others.
- Social Intelligence: You know how to fit in to different social situations.
- Fairness: One of your abiding principles is to treat all people fairly.
- Leadership: You excel at encouraging a group to get things done.
- Teamwork: You excel as a member of a group.
- Forgiveness: You forgive those who have done you wrong.
- Humility: You do not seek the spotlight and others recognize and value your modesty.
- Prudence: You are a careful person.
- Self-Regulation: You are a disciplined person.
- Appreciation of Beauty: You notice and appreciate beauty and excellence in all domains of life.
- Gratitude: You are aware of good things that happen and do not take them for granted.
- Hope: You expect the best in the future, and you work to achieve it.
- Humor: Bringing smiles to others people is important to you.
- Spirituality: Your beliefs shape your actions and are a source of comfort to you.
Looking at the political cesspool that is Washington, D.C. today, the lack of character, courage, kindness and honesty by some of the men and women elected to represent us all is galling for its lack of maturity and sophistication.
That said, we are left to examine our own strengths and use them wisely to bring balance, civility and a sense of peacefulness to our little corner of the world. It’s easy – attend a lecture about a culture that differs from yours and consider the similarities, not the differences. Practice staying non-judgmental. Engage in more open-minded learning experiences such as taking a yoga class. Journal, draw or paint to record/express your impressions and feelings. Say thank you; show gratitude every day, and always remember – happiness is contagious!
Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct, by P. M. Forni
Treating People Well: The Extraordinary Power of Civility at Work and in Life, by Lea Berman and Jeremy Bernard
Character Strengths and Virtues, by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman,