Have you thought much about what it means to have “character?” For many, that’s likely not something you think about unless specifically asked, so maybe you might struggle to describe what character really means.

Some people confuse character with reputation, but character is much more than just reputation. Reputation is only what others see and think about someone. Character is who we really are, even when no one is watching. Character traits are the qualities that make us who we are. There are several definitions of the word, but generally it means the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.

If I were to describe someone to you by saying he or she has a fine character, would you know what I mean? My guess is that you would. You'd probably understand that I was talking about someone with moral or ethical strength. This may be what some people call integrity.

But how do you know when someone - even yourself - has good character? Well, for one thing, you should be able to readily see the evidence.

Character is revealed in our actions, in the values that we choose to live by. Character begins building in early life, in our family. If we are consistently treated with respect, we grow up free from the burden of trying to prove our worth, free to develop integrity of character. Schools, churches and workplaces can help build character too — positively or negatively.

With that said, however, many experts firmly believe, that people can also develop and shape their own character. If you would like to do this in a more conscious way. Start by making a list of the qualities or traits you value.

Your list might include traits like honesty, compassion, discipline, perseverance, kindness, courage, sincerity and forgiveness? This is only a partial list, so I know your list will include other qualities as well.

Once your list is complete, what are some actions you could take which would demonstrate those qualities? What could you do to build these qualities into your own character, so that behaving in these ways becomes second nature?

Character could be defined as, "who you are when no one is looking." As you think about these things, remember that choosing to develop or shape character may not be easy. It requires avoiding the shorter, more direct path. It can be slow, expensive and difficult work. However, there is a great deal of information available to help you. Seek it out, and stick with it. You can do it!

Think about it…