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Character – it’s an interesting word. It’s neither a gift nor a burden, and no one is born with it. It becomes your responsibility to discover. It can refer to the quality of an individual, or the uniqueness. A person can have character, or be a character. One thing is certain: It’s rarely developed in comfort – it is the experience of trial and challenge that generally develops this quality. The threat of hard work also determines character – some people turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.

Along the way, there are desirable traits that come with this rare element, and one in particular that comes to mind is how we treat our fellow man (and woman). Another of the more notable indexes is how we deal with people who are not in a position to do us any good, and how we treat individuals in lesser stations of life, or those who can’t defend themselves. How well you handle power is a strong indicator of your inner quality, and remarkably enough, what a person finds humorous tells you much about his or her character. One final note I would add to this line of thought: I have never known a person who was cruel to animals to have quality of character – these two aspects are simply not compatible.

Even more than knowledge, character buys you respect. The discerning person is more concerned with their character than their reputation, because character is what you really are, while reputation can be manipulated. If you wish to give your children something to guide their lives by, give them character, because people of character do the right thing even if no one else is watching – not because they think they can change the world, but because they refuse to be changed by the world. I’ve noticed in my life that those people with real character can’t be easily manipulated because their sense of certainty keeps them from the slippery slope of indecision. People with good intentions make promises. People with good character keep them.

Character is also a powerful gift during the emergencies of life, because you spend less time trying to figure out what to do – you already know what is right – and quite naturally leadership descends from character. The author Robert Tew once said, “Strength of character isn’t always about how much you can handle before you break. It’s also about how much you can handle after you break…”

In a world today, where “image is everything,” I’ll leave you with an old Nigerian quote: “Ugliness with good character is better than beauty.”

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