Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

For you, what is character?

Asked by wundayatta (58638points) December 16th, 2010

Someone just asked if we were good judges of character, and this made me wonder what knowledge people use when they assess someone’s character. I invite you to think about this, and then try to really figure out what it is you look at. Is it behaviors? Which ones? Is it what they talk about? Is it how they talk? Or walk? Or act? What, specifically about talking or walking or acting tells you what about a person’s character?

It might be useful to pick someone you know (preferably someone not in fluther so there is no embarrassment) and describe their character and then tell us what clues you in that this is their character.

I know it’s a tough one, but I think it’ll be really interesting to see if we look at similar things or interpret them in similar or different ways. I suggest you write yours before reading anyone else’s. Then you can add on, if you want, after you read other comments.

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32 Answers

Serevaetse's avatar

The ability to grow up; to know when you need to ‘man up’ (I don’t care if you’re a girl, you can man up every now and again), to know when somebody needs you, to do things even though you don’t want to, to be nice even though somebody is treating you like shit, to treat everyone equally, to know that everyone is a person who deserves to be treated right, to not make excuses, and just live life knowing that you’re doing your part- and actually be doing it.

ucme's avatar

It’s simply their overall persona/demeanour. Which is why it can sometimes be a little tricky analysing folk we come across online. Sight unseen, for the most part, can leave opinions a touch “blurred.”

The_Idler's avatar

Character is having your own style without trying too hard.

And I mean that on many different levels.

Coloma's avatar

Personal responsibility for ones words and actions.
Honesty, freedom from unconscious projections, or at least the ability to ‘catch’ them, all of which merit some degree of ‘maturity.’

Freedom from hypocrisy, duplicity, and being humble enough to admit your mistakes.

A commitment to integrity as the most important facet of of ones existence.

partyparty's avatar

Having that innate ability to influence people. They have a charismatic personality which is evident just by being in their company.

kess's avatar

Character is simply the nature of a person or thing.

Character is made obvious by the things that proceed from that thing or person.

It is not about looking at outward appearances cause that may mislead.

It is about their understand the nature and the way of Life.

Nevertheless the less cannot be the judge of the greater though many a time it is so.

So each should do what they are able to do with ease.
That is…..
Be their own Judge so as to judge rightly, then they are able to see to judge others.

YoBob's avatar

I once heard good character defined as a predisposition to do the right thing even when nobody else is looking.

As for how to determine if one is of good character, any valid opinion on the subject can only come after an extended acquaintance.

Doppelganger19's avatar

It’s many things, but for me,one of the key attributes of character is having integrity.

Blackberry's avatar

Essentially, I see character as how you handle yourself when you feel no one is looking, or how you act according to affecting other people. If I’m in your house alone, and I know I could get away with stealing something valueable, for example, I’m not going to do it because I simply don’t think it’s right.

Serevaetse's avatar

@Blackberry (: Great Answer!!!

Summum's avatar

I don’t think we can judge good or bad character that is in the eye of the beholder. Many would say a person has a good character and then others would say different of the same person. Who is correct? We need to be who we are and all of us make everyone who they are for us. In other words you make me to be who I am for you and I make you who you are for me. No one can control that I will be for you who you make me to be.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, doing the ‘right’ thing whether or not someone is looking.

Character can’t be ‘built’, it either is or it isn’t.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Character is the ability to act for the right outcome for the right reason, even if it’s personally difficult.

Wikipedia lists a long litany of virtues that are perhaps often misconstrued as character, and certainly virtues define how a person’s values. Everyone has virtues to varying degrees. Not everyone acts according to their beliefs. I don’t believe that virtues can be taught; people develop them by exposure to concepts and ideas.

I do think that courage to act on your convictions can be developed and learned, and expanded. Parents teach this to children by how they handle their children’s mistakes and errors in judgment. The military develops it in young people by teaching responsibility and accountability.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

All of the above plus throw in a little of that kickass school superintendent and that even more kickass woman that went after a gunman with her purse in Florida a few days age.

BoBo1946's avatar

Character is when you say no when everyone else is saying yes!

YoBob's avatar

@Coloma I disagree that character can’t be ‘built’. While I do believe that we are all born with predispositions towards certain personality traits, I also believe that our sense of right and wrong are largely shaped by our experiences while growing up, particularly by the examples set by our role models. Further, I believe that our character continues to be effected by those we hold important to us throughout our lives.

For example, in cub scouting a significant part of the program is devoted to exploring various aspects of good character, the intent, of course, being to provide a positive framework to help the boys develop. As a cubmaster, I like to think that the effort is not a total waste of time. ;)

thekoukoureport's avatar

Character is doing the right thing when no one is looking.

flutherother's avatar

Character is what you find when someone has strong and reliable values.

stardust's avatar

Some great answers above. There’s some people in my life who I believe have such strength of character: they’ve had many knocks in life, but they don’t see themselves as victims whatsoever. Instead, they’ve used that experience as an opportunity for growth.
Knowing that the world doesn’t revolve around one. Living with integrity; being graceful as much as one can and many of the above answers.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

To do what you say you belief is right and to do so with quiet dignity.

Coloma's avatar

@YoBob

Plenty of boy scouts grow up to be of poor character/integrity, and plenty of seemingly ‘disadvantaged’ types can grow up to be of strong character.

I believe also that a good portion of character is already developed in each individual, that there is an intrinsic, as well as nurturing component.

Some people are naturally of under developed character like sociopaths and no amount of boy scouting will change that! lol

Modeling only goes just so far.

I’d say that most criminals have a good grasp on the right/wrong dichotomy they just don’t care.

One of the great mysteries of life, how some have no shame and others hold themselves highly accountable.

SuperMouse's avatar

I think character comes from having a set of values and sticking to them even, as others have said, when no one would notice the difference. It is about trying to be true to your sense of integrity and scrupulousness even when it is not easy.

I disagree however with @Coloma, I believe character can be taught, but the student must be willing. I know people who were brought up with very little nurturing and even less instruction in developing a sense of personal responsibility, who later in life realized what it is to behave with character and strive every minute to do so.

Coloma's avatar

There can also be the opposite effect in ‘modeling.’

Many people develop their character by NOT modeling, rejecting, the behaviors of their parents, caretakers, society.

So ‘teaching’ character can also be influenced by what one rejects, instead of accepts.

I would fall into this category.

I saw much disparity, hypocrisy, in what my family taught, and I became even more strongly invested in developing my character to be free of hypocrisy.

True character is about congruency, what one thinks, says and does, line up!

BoBo1946's avatar

Giving another human being a second chance when it’s not a popular thing to do!

BarnacleBill's avatar

This is character.

BoBo1946's avatar

@BarnacleBill wow… did not know that.

Mutable's avatar

I think the most important quality that anyone can ever have is the fact that “their word is their bond”! You should be able to trust a person unequivocally. If you can trust them, they more than likely have good character. If you can’t….. stay away.

hotgirl67's avatar

Character to me means living by your own morals,ethics, and standards and doing what is right becuse in your heart you know it is regardless of whether someone sees it or not.Strong character means keeping your dignity and integrity even if you are not surrounded by the best influences.

yankeetooter's avatar

Character is doing the right thing, even when you don’t want to do it.

Coloma's avatar

Character is all about truth, trust and honesty.
Be impeccable with your word.
True integrity is walking your talk, not caving to situational ethics, being highly self aware and always looking within towards your motives and intentions. Zero manipulative intent.

I like the mantra of character/integrity being, doing the right thing whether or not, someone is watching.

I just let go of a ‘friend’ that I woke up to their sneaky, manipulative side. One strike and your little donkey ass is kicked out of my stable of bluebloods. lol

Inspired_2write's avatar

Character is how one acts when one thinks that no one is looking.

CIA agents ( and other spy agencies) learn to read the subtle body changes to determine clues on whether someone is telling the truth .

Read Robert Ludlum book called ” The Ambler Warning” (2005).
In the first few pages it gives an idea what an agent looks for in reading a person.
I imagine “The Bourne“series of books also have a lot on this too.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Staying true to one’s convictions no matter what.

Conversely, admitting when you’re wrong in a manner that suggests you find it easy to do.

That perhaps you’ve done it at least once before.

The more you learn to keep your mouth shut unless you are certain you are correct the easier it is to look another in the eye and say “I don’t know” when the rare moment comes that it’s required.

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