How To Find Out If You Are A Tricky Character
I’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?