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is not something we think about
very often. Not directly.
Indirectly, we think about it all
the time. We have to deal with the character of every person we
meet, work with, or date, with every relative we keep in contact
with, or who had a hand in our up-bringing. We are affected by the
characters of our leaders, our law enforcers, our local business
people, corporate managers, advertisers, people who turn to crime,
people who choose to look the other way.
Character is who we are but
in a real sense it shows who we choose to be. It is something we
develop in life. Genetics provide the groundwork, but there are
many intersections on the road of life. The directions we choose
decides our entire future.
Character consists of those attributes
which adhere to us as individuals. We see these traits everyday.
We tend to think of them as parts of a particular personality. The
word personality, however, seems fixed in stone. Character
is something we build with each decision that we make. It is expressed
in our actions.
It used to be that the idea of a noble
character was held in high esteem. It consisted of a high
degree of self control, honesty, politeness, bravery, generosity,
thoughtfulness, and personal strength. Such ideals influence culture
in a positive direction. People use them in developing their own
characters, which then provide a social commonality of ideals.
What do we have today? Decades of
embracing the anti-hero have weakened our concept of character ideals.
We still hold in reverence such cultural giants as Abraham Lincoln
and Martin Luther King Jr., but we fail to reach for their high
ideals. Society does not even call for us to do so. It is the system
that's supposed to make things work, and guarantee certain rights.
Personal integrity is hardly anticipated. We prefer written contracts
to handshakes. Since we don't really ask for bravery from our citizens,
cowardice and lack of concern are more acceptable than ever before.
As for honesty, consider such late additions to our Twentieth Century
vocabulary as: disinformation, spin doctors, virtual reality,
and waffling. They give tactical respectability to bending,
twisting and even breaking the truth. Criminals don't even have
to take the stand and be questioned in court!
We are warned as children not to trust
anyone. The older we get, the more we appreciate that advice. But
what does that say of us as a people? How is it that we fail to
build characters that are trustworthy and heroic, dedicated to what
is true and good? How is it that we put more time into looking for
angles than in making sure that what we do is right? How is it that
we do not experience outrage in the face of political dishonesty,
but shrug it off as the nature of the beast?
The society we live in reflects who
we are. We have no one else to blame for its shortcomings. We change
it for the better only by changing ourselves.