We Shape Our Own Character

Character may determine our fate, but character is not determined by fate.

There’s no doubt that our character has a profound effect on our future. What we must remember, however, is not merely how powerful character is in influencing our destiny, but how powerful we are in shaping our own character and, therefore, our own destiny.

It’s a common mistake to think of character as something that is fully formed and fixed very early in life. It calls to mind old maxims like “A leopard can’t change its spots” and “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” This perspective that our character is “etched in stone” is supported by a great deal of modern psychology emphasizing self-acceptance. As Popeye says, “I am what I am.” The hidden message is: Don’t expect me to be more, better, or different.

Ultimately, these views of humanity totally undervalue the lifelong potential for growth that comes with the power of reflection and choice. How depressing it would be to believe that we can’t choose to be better – more honest, more respectful, more responsible, and more caring. None of us should give up the personal quest to improve our character. Not because we’re bad – we don’t have to be sick to get better – but because we’re not as good as we could be.

There are so many things in life we can’t control – whether we’re beautiful or smart, whether we had good parents or bad, whether we grew up with affirmation or negation – it’s uplifting to remember that nothing but moral will power is needed to make us better.

No, it isn’t easy. But if we strive to become more aware of the habits of heart and mind that drive our conduct, we can begin to place new emphasis on our higher values so that we become what we want our children to think we are.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 8

  1. Michael, you are correct and research does confirm that our character is developed through activity, including education, training, experience and reflection. As we make daily decisions and take attendant actions, we are both revealing and developing our character. It’s a life-long responsibility and journey. All the best, Patrick

  2. Moral will power is not enough and neither is a change in character to do away with evil. Hitler came from a society that was highly educated, moral and ethical and that was certainly not enough. Leave God out of the equation and you will always have evil arise.

    1. I agree Brenda. God created us and knows what is best for us. If we think we can do this by ourselves, we are mistaken. God is good and wants what is good for us, but we have to choose Him, His love, His forgiveness and His word.

      1. I didn’t think that the article was an invitation for readers to prosthelytze their religious convictions onto the rest of us as if you have the absolute truth of the matter. Brenda and Scott sound like old dogs up to their same old tricks. God is supposedly written into the equation that our country lives by, Brenda, yet look how evil it has become.

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  3. So many people have been brain washed that they are just like their father/mother that they believe negative criticism. Moral will power is needed to help make everyone better.

  4. You are so right Brenda. We have a fallen human nature and even when we find God we still battle the darkness inside us that never leaves us completely. It is self serving and wants what it wants. It hurts us and everyone that loves us.

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