Character is a sum of experiences, wisdom from those experiences, personal values, maturity and I also believe it is somewhat destined. We can see good character in children - where does that come from? One sibling can differ so much from another: they have the same upbringing and same parents and environment, yet they can behave so differently. How? I don't know. Which is why I believe that character is destined.
In my thinking, character of a person is seen in their honesty, loyalty, respect, high moral values, ethics and humility. Humility because one should not let get all the other characteristics get into their head and turn into pride and ego. One should have good character just because it is a good thing - not to prove anything to anyone. Sometimes people call people with good character "self-righteous". I think that feeling comes because they can see the good in others which they know they themselves do not or cannot possess.
For most part, people live their lives without giving much importance on how the other person behaves because it really does not affect them too much in a day to day basis. However, the closer the relationship, the more important the character of a person becomes. We tend to make friends with people who share our values in life. So if the character of a person is not matching with ours, we will not only not be friends but we will not trust them either.
Most of us can survive with whatever degree of negative character we have. (The more the negative value the harder the life!) The character of a person shows its true colors under extreme circumstances. If one can come out of that time/situation with gravitas then we can say - Okay! this person has shown some character!
Some good souls may not have a need for their character to be tested, because they have such high ethics and morals that they will never fail. Those really are higher beings.
I feel these days most people use character as a commodity; they use it as convenient to them. They use it where they see a value for it and not where they don't. They may show good character to their boss but then go out the mistreat their subordinate. They may show they have high values and moral to their family yet not show respect to strangers or sometimes even friends. Or in some cases, they may say they have high values, yet when the time comes to actually show it, they behave contrarily.
People with such bipolar behaviour can lose the center of their gravity - the core of their being. They can lose perspective of who they were, who they are and what they are becoming. They may lose track of how they are behaving and with whom. And if they keep continuing on that path then all their different roads will start crossing each other eventually the "real" person will start to emerge - the one who uses character as convenient to them. And using character as a commodity is not good character to begin with - that's called having "loose character". All that they were trying to accomplish will be lost in one second. All the good will get washed out with one single bad action - trust will be broken. And trust is a like a glass vase, you can join it if it breaks but the cracks will always remain.
I believe in living with a set of values whereby
- I can sleep peacefully at night
- I know that I have not hurt anyone with my actions or words (at least not consciously)
- I have not asked anyone to do anything for me that I myself would not do. I cannot place anyone else's ethics on the line - otherwise I will lose my morality by asking someone else to lose theirs.
- I know that I did my best in whatever I was doing and
- that I will keep doing my best.
I don't want to live a life that is lie. It does not serve any purpose. It is better to remove oneself from the situation rather than face a lifetime of living a lie. If an action is not making someone happy, or making you happy then maybe that action is not worth taking. Not that every action has to make someone happy and not that every lie is a bad one - that action and that lie that ruins relationships are not worth it!!
In life we come across situations where we may not want to do something but we are being compelled to do it - for the good of a larger cause or the good of a person. We have use our judgement in those cases and decide what is more important to us - our values, our good name or making the other person happy even though it is not the right thing to do. We have to feel satisfied and ultimately live with our decision.
I want to live a life where I have nothing to hide, I have nothing to be ashamed of, I have no regrets and I am at peace with myself. I want to live with the feeling that I did the right thing - under the circumstances. A thief may think that stealing is fine and it is righteous according to him, but deep down somewhere he knows what he did was wrong. What I am saying is I should be able to live with my decisions.
I may have referred to this bhajan before also - but really - its my favorite one! It conveys the message that your "self" is the mirror of your character - you know what you are doing is just or not.