What is Character?

In the late 1800s, author/philosopher Samuel Smiles wrote a thoughtful book called Character.

In this book he wrote, “Although genius always commands admiration, character most secures respect. The former is more the product of brain-power, the latter of heart-power; and in the long run it is the heart that rules in life. Men of genius stand to society in the relation of its intellect, as men of character of its conscience; and while the former are admired, the latter are followed.” In other words, people look up to smart people but they will follow good people.

Character is the set of distinct qualities that define a person. It is his or her personality — the way he or she thinks, feels, and behaves. We may say someone is of a good character, or a bad character. This is based on our observations of a person’s principles, integrity, and morality. When we make judgments about someone’s character, we tend to pay close attention to how that person actually behaves and not only to what he or she says.

Discuss: What are some reasons it is important to be a man or woman of good, sound, moral character?

Some answers might include:

  • People will regard you highly
  • You will be trusted
  • It is a duty we have

In the mid-1800s, His Royal Highness, Prince Consort Albert, determined that each year a prize was to be awarded by Her Majesty, Queen Victoria of England, not to the smartest or strongest boy, but “to the boy who should show the most promise of becoming a large-hearted, high-motivated man.”

Discuss: If such a contest were to be held today, what are some of the characteristics by which we might choose the winner?


Oak Norton

About the Author

Oak Norton

Father of 5 children, husband to 1 amazingly patient woman, entrepreneur, and education advocate.

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