Authors, Readers, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Eyes for Character
and your brains as well! No, I’m not starting a collection for Halloween. I really need your help and thoughts on a title for my book about how important character is. (see also moral character) I’ve written about it some in various blog posts. Here is the draft of the first chapter. Please read over and give me your opinion in the comments as well as any thoughts for a title. I have several ideas, but none of them thrill me. I look forward to your thoughts. I ask that you lend me your eyes for character. Read the chapter and share your thoughts!
Chapter 1 Society Needs A Better Conscience
Character is important. It is not about being perfect, it is about how you react to the imperfections of life and how you deal with every day events. How do I know this? My grandparents, Syble, Harry Jay, Frankie and Earl not only said so, but demonstrated character’s importance daily. Parents, teachers, Scout leaders, and many others influenced my character development. The conversation in this book will lay out a description of character, some thoughts on how to develop character, the consequences of not promoting good character and nine steps to improve our own character. Wrapping up the conversation we answer the question, “Where do we go from here?” Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Men of character are the conscience of the society to which they belong.”
Our society’s conscience, battered and bruised, needs help. It is difficult for someone to stand up and hold another accountable for their actions. Agencies that discourage us from doing so by are main stream media, the government, even our fellow-man. If we do dare to take a stand we get a label as a racist, liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, pro-life, pro-choice, homophobic, Christian, Muslim, atheist or some other term that means to frame us as the bad person and force us into a pattern of submissive behavior. One proposal to solve society’s diminished conscience is by promoting, encouraging and demonstrating good character. I can only change myself and hope to influence a few other people to do likewise. I cannot change you or the world. Since you are reading this, I urge you to join me on this journey.
Before we attempt to define and measure character, let’s look at some aspects of what makes up an individual. Their height, weight, sex, eye color, hair color and other physical characteristics are easily identified and labeled. We can measure intelligence with some accuracy, however character is harder to pin down. It seems to change and morph over time and across cultures. It is hard to agree on a simple definition and it is even harder, if not impossible, to measure character. Character can be tested, but can it be measured without testing it? Perhaps some aspects can be. There are some basic traits that are common to defining good character. We will explore some of these as well as some thoughts on how important developing one’s own character and influencing those around them. The first focus will be evaluating, developing and improving ourselves first. Only after this period of self-examination and improvement will we discuss what is needed to influence others. You do not need to be a leader or even in a position of authority to encourage others to change. We will talk about the things anyone can do, no matter what their place or comfort level of interacting with other people.
Modified for today, we might paraphrase Emerson’s quote on character and conscience as, “People that are good, are society’s conscience.” Society needs a better, stronger conscience. Go search the web and you will find there are many books, tapes, podcasts and other media on various aspects of character. Why another? Not everyone learns the same way. Everyone responds to a message or explanation in a slightly different way. Hearing the message from one point of view, the message may be disregarded or not even heard. Told a slightly different way, a person may receive the message, at least enough to begin understanding. I want to help you make a better you. And in doing so, to make a better world one person at a time. Let us promote and encourage good character in ourselves, in each other and in society. We can share a bit of the guidance and wisdom that man of us have received over the years. Is any one person a credible authority on something that society defines? Probably not and I do not claim to be the last authority on character. However, I believe that anyone can learn to recognize, appreciate, encourage and improve character. Society defines the aspects and traits that make up good character over the years through many experiences. These traits embody our laws, traditions and customs. We inherently know what they are.
There are various thoughts on how to understand and improve one’s character. I believe that character needs to be taught, not just as a classroom subject but by example from parents, teachers and other authority figures. This includes actors, musicians, writers, journalists, athletes, both college and professional and anyone else that has influence over people. If “society” does not behave in a rational way, why should we expect its citizens to do so? We, “society,” need to recognize and expect good character.
If we assume that character can be taught, then we need to identify the traits so that we can help others to recognize them. More importantly, we need to spread the idea that society expects to see good character, that we need to see good character and that society as a whole requires good character. This is not emphasized enough today. We see more examples of bad character making the news than we do of good. In the chapters that follow we will look at defining character, recognizing character, promoting character and most importantly, learning how to improve character. We want to learn and understand the building blocks of character. The goal is to develop a simple set of guidelines and steps to improve our character. Why character? Because society needs a conscience.
Before we look at trying to define character, let us look at some other thoughts about character by several important people:
“Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.”
— Albert Einstein
“Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talent are, to some extent, a gift. Good character, by contrast is not given to us. We have to build it piece by piece—by thought, choice, courage and determination.”
— John Luther
“I’ll take character over reputation. Your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
— A. J. Perez
These thoughts should help us to start thinking about why character is important and the impact that it has on our society. You don’t start with good character, but you don’t start with bad either. A young mind is a blank slate that learns from it experiences. Character develops in the mind, heart and inner being by how one reacts to their surroundings. Identifying good character traits can be taught, but developing those traits takes effort and willpower. We will discuss all these things in the pages ahead. I am excited that you have decided to embark upon this journey with me. Together we can make ourselves and the world a better place. One person, one trait, one change at a time.
Please take a moment and lend me your eyes for character. Leave some comments, feedback, suggestions, etc below. Do not worry about bruising my ego. After spending nine years in the US Navy, I have a hide like a rhinoceros. Seriously I appreciate any constructive feedback. Thank you!