Saturday, February 20, 2010

What is Character?

Character in some circles is used like an "ideal". But, "ideals" have to be defined to be really understood. All of us understand our definitions differently because each of us will have different priorities and values concerning what consitutes "character".

If I am a child that has need of a parent to love and nurture me, then "character" is used by the child as a "nurturing and affirming adult". That is "character" to the child in need.

But, if I am drowning in an ocean, and a ship passes by and someone sees my dilemma and rescues me. Then that is "character" because I had a need for someone to be courageous, concerned, and responsive to my need.

If I am an abused wife and have led a fearful and subservient life under the domination of an abusive and controlling husband. I need someone to be sensitive, understanding and considerate to my over-reactions to any form of "interference", as I will view the concern as "control".

But, if I am in a business proposition, I have need for others to be honest and forthright about their expectations, and negotiate those expectations, and outcomes, so that we can agree. The compomises and agreement will benefit both of us, because I have entered into a contract with someone of integrity.

A politician is given public trust by the voter to uphold his promises during the campaign. But, all too often, politics does not allow the individual politician to uphold his promises, because of the contingencies and values of other propositions and political goals of others. So, always there wil be compromise and the public looses trust. And the politician is left as one without "principle" (or character). Principle will not get along with those who differ and cannot compromise to get anything accomplished in the political realm.

What is needed by any one situation or person differs. And "character" understands the needs of the person or situation and tries to act appropriately. Character is the ability to act or respond in a situation regarding others in an appropriate way.

So, what then, is character?

So, whenever someone says "character" to me, I wonder what they mean. They must mean that their particular value is upheld. But, at what costs is their value upheld? Is their value a universal value, or one that they thing "should" be a universal? Do these see the "world" as innately "evil" and they must correct it? Or do they see "beauty", even through tragedy and seek to alleviate the tragic? The universals of life, liberty and the "pursuit of happiness" are universals, but will be defined and understood differently. And free societies will allow such differences.

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