I have had a hard time lately getting an old Proverb out of my head:
“As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.” – Proverbs 27:19
This saying compares an individual’s heart to a mirror… it perfectly reflects the truth. Whatever you see in a man or woman’s heart, it defines them perfectly. There is no hiding the truth of a person when you see what is really in their heart.
So, that begs the next question, “What is a person’s heart? What should I be looking for? What things about a person defines the real person… their true character?” Of course, everyone has an opinion on character. Some say your character is who you really are when no one else is watching. Others say that your character is the way you think, feel, and behave. Still others talk about your character as a sort of moral compass which serves as your default mode regardless of the circumstances you face.
Certainly, all of these definitions of character make sense. Your character is what you really are. So, what are some observable attributes or behaviors that define character. If you had to develop a “character checklist”, what would you include? Likewise, if you wanted to assess your own character or that of your children, what tool would you use?
Following is a list of “character” attributes that can help define our true character. Of course, this is not a complete list. But, I have collected this list of characteristics that help me define a virtuous person… a person of character. This list is also a good way of assessing whether your children are developing a heart of virtue. I admit that this is not my own original list, but it includes contributions from many others and my own observations of people and behavior throughout my lifetime. In any event, here is my list of 33 “character” attributes:
- Gratitude – Does the individual express a genuine sense of thankfulness for what they have, what others do for them, and the blessings in life they have been gifted?
- Self-discipline – Does the individual possess the ability to get things done without nagging, urging, or threats? Does the person habitually fulfill their commitments?
- Willingness and ability to work – Does the individual do their share, especially without being told? Has the person learned the value and benefits from work?
- Hope – Does the individual have a sense of hope for the future and something on which to base that hope? Does the individuals live in the present and look forward to the future more than longing for or regretting the past?
- An attitude of service – Does the individual put others before self? Does the person seek ways and opportunities to make life better for someone else?
- Faith/Optimism – Does the individual live with a sense that “this could be their best day yet”? Does the person express an attitude that lifts others? Is the person confident in whatever the future might hold?
- Contentment – Does the individual have a sense of satisfaction in their life? Has the person learned the art of being content, yet without sacrificing a desire to improve?
- Desire to improve – Does the individual seek to learn from mistakes? Is the person seeking ways to enhance skills, abilities, and mind?
- Responsibility – Does the individual assume responsibility or accountability for his/her own actions? Will the person typically “do what they say they will do”?
- Compassion – Does the person truly care about others? Does their actions show a heart-felt compassion for the feelings and circumstances of others? Do their actions reflect this?
- Humility – Is the person allowing their actions to speak louder than their words? Do they downplay their own contributions while enhancing that of others?
- Perseverance – Will the person stay-with-it long enough to finish the task? Does the person finish what they start? Are they in it for the long haul?
- Joy – Does the person have a genuinely happy disposition? Has the individual learned to express joy even when circumstances are negative?
- Peace-loving – Does the person seek to bring about peace and consensus? Does the person diffuse negative circumstances?
- Generosity – Does the person willingly give sacrificially to others? Does the person seek opportunities to share what they have to make a difference for others?
- Kindness – Is the person kind to everyone in every situation? Does the person show the same level of kindness to those that can do nothing for them in return as they would for a VIP?
- Purity – Does the person strive to be faithful, pure, and “clean” in what he/she says, does, supports, and encounters?
- Courage – Is the person willing to stand up for what is right, even in the face of opposition? Will the person defend the defenseless?
- Trust – Can the person be trusted in all things? Does he/she trust others?
- Sense of self-worth – Does the person have a healthy understanding of their own worth to others and God? Does the person hold their head high or cower under pressure?
- Respect for others – Does the person appreciate and respect the opinions, abilities, backgrounds, skills, and personality of others?
- Mercy – Does the person express forgiveness and mercy frequently and freely?
- Justice – Does the person seek that which is right, true, and fair? Does the person stand up for those than cannot do so for themselves?
- Self-control – Does the person control their words, actions, and attitudes appropriately even when they are being mistreated?
- Honesty and integrity – Can the person be counted on to be truthful and honest in all situations? Would others name this individual if asked to name individuals with integrity?
- Willingness to submit to authority – Is the person willing to submit to others in authority over them? Do they respect their boss, their parents, and government officials? Do they reject rebellion as a normal response to not getting their own way?
- Love – Does the person willingly express love for others? Is this individual willing to freely express their thoughts about and to others?
- Confidence – Does the individual exude a sense of confidence in who they are and what they do? Will they look you in the eye when speaking? Is their handshake firm?
- Desire for excellence – Does the individual seek to do their best in all things, small or large? Does the person strive to do things well rather than cut corners?
- Desire to learn from others – Does the individual freely accept the teaching and counsel of others?
- Desire to develop and enhance relationships – Does the individual understand and appreciate the importance of connecting personally with others? Does the person seek genuine relationships rather than less personal social connections?
- Genuineness – Is the person the same in private as in public? Does the person express one persona with friends and another at work? Can you say about the person, “What you see is what you get?”
- Love for God – Does the individual know God and outwardly express a love for Him? Is the person seeking to know God more and better? Does the individual live in a way in which he/she seeks to please God?
So, what does your heart say about you? Does your life routinely express these “character” attributes? Are your children growing to be virtuous adults? Are you helping them to develop a virtuous character?
How we live matters. Our actions and behaviors don’t lie. They define who we really are and what truly lies without our heart.
Have a great day! Remember, this really could be our best day yet!