The emotional wounds from changes, endings, unfairness, disloyalty, and disrupted plans create character, veering from the perfectness, and demanding more from the soul. We mustn’t hope for the smooth wrinkle free face of inexperienced youth; but the distinguished lines of wisdom. Hurt by itself is not enough. We gather wisdom from increasingly our sound choices after absorbing the lessons from the pain, avoiding the disasters of the past, and living a more productive life.
We don’t gain character from an unchallenged life. The tugs and pressures of challenging environments provide lessons necessary to develop wisdom, empathy, and courage. The seasons of drought, although capable of destruction, also encourage the deepening of roots, extending through dry ground to find necessary nourishment. If we stubbornly resist, blaming the environment for its failures—the lack of rain—we become victims, grumpy and indignant; self-righteously pointing our fingers in blame.
“The tugs and pressures of challenging environments provide lessons necessary to develop wisdom, empathy, and courage.”~T. Franklin Murphy
Character and Reaction to Life’s Challenges
People of character, the Nelson Mandela’s of the world, react differently. They feel anger for the slights and outright evilness of the world but instead of a retaliatory swing they transition, using their anger and grief to move forward towards lasting solutions.
“The soul of a person who has not undertaken an inner transformation is not free; being in thrall to anger is a normatively unstable and undesirable state…” (Nussbaum. 2016, loc. 5213)
To master life, we must transform to the experience, using self-reflection and patience, as we process the world and become wiser and more stable. This challenges most. We want to react, exhibit our displeasure, and retaliate. Sometimes an angry response is effective but most times it’s not, destroying relationships, and ruining future successes. We feel life, acknowledge emotions, but than regulate responses to achieve healthy and ethical goals.
“A walk that began in misery could end in exultation” (Brooks. 2016, loc. 1717).
Life Isn’t Always Comfortable
The world of fuzzy-feel good philosophy promises too much comfort. We are besieged by the idea of an easy life. We are told our battle torn and wearied bodies are a product of an unhealthy life. This doctrine is very enticing, we are drawn to happiness and comfort, willing to give up long standing ethics for this elegant gift. These promises are a mirage, designed to capitalize on our senses but ignore the realities of an unpredictable, rigorous, and sometimes even tortuous world. It wasn’t a castle (or a luxurious tower on Fifth Avenue) that molded Nelson Mandela but a cell.
“When most people think about the future, they dream up ways they might live happier lives. But notice this phenomenon. When people remember the crucial events that formed them, they don’t usually talk about happiness. It is usually the ordeals that seem most significant. Most people shoot for happiness but feel formed through suffering” (Brooks, 2016, loc. 1893).
We are not responsible for all the happenings in our lives. Unplanned and hurtful episodes intrude uninvited, and demand action. We can complain, avoid the difficult choices, and slither into victimhood; or we can step up and act.
William James wrote, “there is no more contemptible type of human character than that of the nervous sentimentalist and dreamer, who spends his life in a weltering sea of sensibility and emotion, but who never does a concrete manly deed.” (Bellah 2007, loc. 2371)
“Goodness is about character – integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.”~Dennis Prager
Ethical Under Pressure
A trait that seems to be vanishing in todays competitive world is a commitment to ethics. Why are ethics the first thing to throw overboard once the ship starts to sink? Because life is complex, we can always point a finger and find an excuse so we don’t take on our sacrificial abandonment of principles as a sign of our dysfunctional values. We massage our questionable behavior with kind words and accept the unacceptable.
However, a person of character doesn’t subscribe to this. They watch themselves closely and cling to values even when their is a cost. So in so wrote, “self-monitoring raises issues that get us directly into the weighty areas of morality, ethics, and values” (2014, Kindle location 1,563). Basically, self-monitoring doesn’t allow for self-protecting interpretations.
A person of character is “less concerned with how others view them and are guided in their behavior by their own traits and values rather than situational expectations” (2014, Kindle location 1,308). This is a tough call for social animals like humans.
Firmness of purpose is one of the most necessary sinews of character, and one of the best instruments of success. Without it genius wastes its efforts in a maze of inconsistencies.~Philip Dormer Chesterfield
Respect of Other People’s Freedom
Freedom of choice is one of our most cherished gifts. Yet, we rob others of this right all the time. Let me explain. Often, we withhold pertinent information from a stakeholder in our behavior, depriving them to make an informed decision. A partner should have the freedom to leave or repair a relationship if their lover is disloyal. However, if we conceal the disloyalty from them, we rob them of their freedom to choose. We may do this with employers, financial agencies, or any other person or entity where we a written or unwritten agreement.
People of character respect others, honestly reveal information, and deal with the fallout. I much rather deal with these people of character than someone willing to deceive until they are caught. Hence, I should also behave this way.
A Few Words By Psychology Fanatic
People of character act, no matter what the difficulty, towards lasting solutions. Whatever happens, we are responsible for our response, taking the ingredients given by life and arranging them to create a better future. We can be resilient, pursuing something a little better. We can be hurt and still love. And we can fail and still succeed. Most of all we should love, live and enjoy life, not because life is perfect, but because we are a person of character, accepting the realities, fighting through the struggles and basking in the light of living.
Bellah, R. N., Madsen, R., Sullivan, W. M., Swidler, A., & Tipton, S. M. (2007). Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. University of California Press. Kindle Books Edition
Brooks, D. (2016). The Road to Character. Random House Trade Paperbacks. Kindle Books Edition
Little, Brian R. (2014). Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being. PublicAffairs.