How To Find Out If You Are A Tricky Character

Filotimo2I’ve been a thief, have claimed credit for things I have not done, lie, harbour resentments, and am easy prey to addictions (smoking the worst). I tell you this because I want you to be brutally honest with yourself about who you really are. Are you brave enough to do it?

If you want to make a Greek misty eyed, just say: ‘Philotomo.’ It’s a powerfully evocative yet subtle word, symbolising courage, generosity, duty, honour, empathy, humility. It derives from filos, friend, and timi, honour. It’s about giving to others without wanting anything back for yourself, except perhaps love and appreciation.

I’m not Greek. Sometimes I wish I was. Philotomo is a way of behaving which I have struggled all my life to evolve and build in to my nature. We call it ‘character.’ It’s the essence of who we are. Here’s how you can constantly ‘check in’ with what your true character is, at this very moment in your life:

You know what your real character is by what you do when no-one is watching.

I know what I do when no-one is watching. It’s not always pretty. I steal things from hotel rooms. I am always looking for praise. If you ever see me at an all-you-can-eat buffet, please, look away. I am jealous and envious. There is also good stuff. Promise. And most importantly, there is good news.

You see, character evolves over lifetimes. Just as values evolve. It’s a constant work-in-progress. “Character is the mask left on you by life, and the mark we leave on life.” Observe yourself develop your character over the years. Work to change what you don’t like. Nurture and strengthen what you do.

Don’t confuse character with reputation. They are different.

Reputation is what others say of you. You actually can’t control that. Character is who you really are. It’s within your control. I read somewhere that character is like a tree and reputation is like a shadow. The shadow is what you think of it. But the tree is the real thing.

John Gardner, speaking to the Stanford Alumni Society 61 years after graduating, puts it this way: “You find the world loves talent, but pays off on character.”

Character is action. Character is destiny.

Character is your personal integrity, without which it is impossible to be honest with ourselves. Vince Lombardi, coach of the Green Bay Packers: “From self-knowledge we develop character and integrity. And from character and integrity comes leadership.” Integrity is a centerpiece of our capacity for happiness. It begins with humility.

“It’s your life- but only if you make it so. The standards by which you live must be your own standards, your own values, your own convictions in regard to what is right and wrong, what is true and false, what is important and what is trivial. When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else or a community or a pressure group, you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being.”

Know yourself. Observe yourself. Forgive the weaknesses and ugly bits. Ease them away. Embrace your positive intent: the evolving values you admire in yourself. Strengthen them. It really is a life’s journey. And you know what? It is pretty damned fascinating. Pay attention! It’s worth it.

Do you know what your character is, today? What can you do to build and strengthen it, today?

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16 Responses to How To Find Out If You Are A Tricky Character

  1. Paul March 11, 2015 at 10:31 am #

    a very fatherly post Mr S, IMHO… it reminds me of my grandfather’s definition of sportsmanship wherein a true sportsman tells his opponent that his golf ball went in the water – and he dropped a few – even though he was out of sight. ‘That son, is the true test of character.’ Anecdotes like these were a big thing for men of his era. A bit like posts…

    Very much enjoyed the concept of who we are when we’re not being watched. I think there is another worthy post just about that. [Do you close the door to the littlest room in the house when no-one’s at home? The survey starts now]

    • Chris Savage March 11, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

      Thanks Paul. Not intended to be fatherly, except perhaps to myself. Sometimes I set on a phrase or word that I want to understand and know more about, and write a post about my learnings. That was the case here. Character. It’s a biggie.Chris

  2. Donald March 11, 2015 at 11:42 am #

    Always good to take a step back back and reflect Chris.

    • Chris Savage March 11, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

      Thanks Donald.

  3. Erik Posthuma March 11, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

    Powerful piece Chris!

    • Chris Savage March 11, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

      Thanks Erik!

  4. Jim March 11, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

    Confrontingly good. Always wanted to have ‘Mana’ as a rugby playing Brit.
    But it is what you are inside that they judge.
    Powerful. Thanks Chris.

    • Chris Savage March 11, 2015 at 1:51 pm #

      Thanks Jim!

  5. Robert March 11, 2015 at 10:07 pm #

    “Integrity is a centerpiece of our capacity for happiness. It begins with humility.” Powerful words Chris and thank you for another great post. You always give me something to reflect upon and hopefully weave into my day to day.

    • Chris Savage March 12, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

      Thanks Robert! Chris

  6. sawicki March 12, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    a frightening thought that our character is really about what no one sees. I like it. Very nice chris………

    • Chris Savage March 12, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

      Thanks Dave!

  7. Nickolas Kazonis March 12, 2015 at 9:29 pm #

    definitely made my eyes misty, one of your best Chris!

    • Chris Savage March 13, 2015 at 8:56 am #

      Thanks Nick!!

  8. Paula Gaber McNulty March 25, 2015 at 10:42 am #

    Can I borrow (steal?) for a speech I need to give??

    • Chris Savage March 25, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

      Absolutely! Most of my gear is stolen anyway!

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