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Understanding Character

by Ron Kurtus (revised 22 March 2013)

Your character is a set of beliefs that define what sort of person you are. It determines whether you will effectively achieve goals, be forthright in dealing with others, and will obey the laws and rules of the group.

Your opinion of another person's character is based on the impression the person makes concerning his or her attitudes or actions toward things you value.

Although character is related to personality, it is not the same thing. Personality is primarily inborn traits, while character consists of learned behavior. Both may vary with the situation or circumstances.

Character traits are learned from parents, friends, and experiences in the form of "rules" of the right way to behave. Sometimes rules that are taught are wrong and can actually harm the person in the long run. There can also be extremes in good character.

There are three classifications of character: personal, social, and group-based character.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.



Character is based on beliefs

A person's character traits are beliefs concerning the "right way" to act, behave, or conduct him- or herself.

Behavior traits

Character is a set of learned behavior traits that determine how a person will typically react in certain situations. They are attitudes formed of how to respond to challenges, people and their property, and rules.

Character defines the inner nature of a person and how he or she acts or responds in different situations:

When confronted with a difficult task, a temptation, or a situation controlled by a rule, what does the person do? Character will determine whether what he or she do will help or hinder things.

Compared with personality

Character is not personality. Personality is a set of characteristics that influences the way a person thinks and acts.

People seem to be born with certain personality traits or tendencies. Some people appear to be shy, while others seem outgoing and talkative. Some people seem to be leaders, while others are analytical in their thinking.

Character is attitude

Whether a person has an introvert or extrovert personality, his or her character is determined by attitudes toward doing difficult tasks, dealing with other people and following cultural rules. These attitudes show the type of person he or she is.

You learn the rules of character

Your character traits are beliefs concerning the "right way" to act, behave, or conduct yourself, based on rules you learn or are taught from parents, friends, and experience. You believe those actions will benefit you. Unfortunately, you can learn the wrong rules from other people.

Examples of positive rules include:

Examples of rules or beliefs that ultimately can cause problems include:

Good character traits are those you want others to have in dealing with you. Although being lazy or dishonest may suit you fine, such a negative character traits can cause trouble when dealing with other people. Also, you do not want others to have such negative traits in dealing with you.

Character applies in three areas

There are three classifications of character: personal, social, and cultural.

Attitudes toward activities

Personal character primarily consists of attitudes toward activities and work. Positive traits include being the type of person who is hard working and someone who is determined to achieve a goal. Negative traits include being a cowardly person and someone who is disorganized.

Attitudes toward other people

Social character traits consist of attitudes toward other people and their property. Positive traits include being an honest person and someone who is helpful. Negative traits include being an insulting person and someone who is unreliable.

Group-based character

Cultural traits concern attitudes toward the laws and rules of groups, organizations, and society.

Religious group

Religions have a set of rules or commandments that their members are expected to follow. They may include positive personal and social character rules, but also include rules specific to the religion, such as forbidding eating certain foods.

Business

Business organizations have special rules that employees are expected to follow, such as a dress code and ethical issues.

Community

Communities, states, and countries have laws that should be upheld. A person will a negative group-based character may often disregard or break the law.

Summary

Your character is a set of beliefs that define what sort of person you are. Your opinion of another person's character is based on the impression the person makes concerning his or her attitudes or actions toward things you value.

Although character is related to personality, it is not the same thing. Personality is primarily inborn traits, while character consists of learned behavior.

Character traits are learned from parents, friends, and experiences in the form of "rules" of the right way to behave.

There are three classifications of character: personal, social, and group-based character.


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