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“Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others THINK you are.” – Dale Carnegie
“Character” comes from the Greek word “kharakter” which means “symbol or imprint on the soul”. Originally, a character was the stamp impressed into wax and clay. It is a form of signature or personal subscription to distinguish ownership of a thing.
In the 17th century, its meaning evolved into “the sum of qualities that defines a person”. However, it is not synonymous with personality or temperament. Rather, it is defined as one’s moral self or moral structure, something built through virtuous behaviour such as habits, motives, and thoughts.
The term “character” started in the 17th century and peaked in the 19th century, according to cultural historian Warren Susman. It was a time of “a culture of character” and character became a keyword to describe a person. It was perceived with great deal and the cultivation of character was far more superior to wealth. Susman noted that the word died out in the beginning of 20th century when the word “personality” took over its place.
James Davison Hunter, author of “The Death of Character” listed the 3 qualities of true character as (1) moral discipline, (2) moral attachment, and (3) moral autonomy. Moral discipline is the mastery of one’s desires and impulses; moral attachment is the commitment of higher ideals; and moral autonomy is the autonomy to make ethical decisions.
It has been said that the true exercise of a man’s character was whether he would hold to his moral principles no matter the consequences. Henry Scott Holland wrote, “Character is the reaction from circumstances.”