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What is Character?

Making Ethical Decisions

It has been said that “The true test of a person’s character is how they behave in difficult times.” John C. Maxwell is credited with making this important observation. Maxwell is an American author, speaker, and pastor who has written many books, primarily focusing on leadership. 

I know this to be true from my own experiences. Even though I am an ethical person (why else would I be blogging under the name “Ethics Sage”), I still struggle with not letting difficult times define who I am. I can be easily upset when things go wrong, in part because I am a perfectionist.

I work on my character every day, but it is a work in progress. I get upset when things don’t go my way or the unexpected happens. I used to meditate, and that helps. Moreover, I try deep breathing; mindfulness; and just stepping back from the situation and thinking about what’s important to me in a particular situation. In other words, I try to keep things in perspective. I try not to let it put me into a funk.

Signs That You Are in a Funk  

Funks typically pass on their own, but that doesn't mean you need to be stuck in one for the duration. Instead, you can take action to help yourself feel better and happier. According to Ariane Resnick, CNC, writing for Very Well Mind, being in a funk means that you feel unhappy, whether that's with or without a life event that caused it. Has this happened to you? If so, you’re not alone.

Sometimes a traumatic event can be the trigger, but other times you might have a long bad mood. It also generally means you may feel lacking in motivation. Here are some of the signs that you're in a funk according to Resnick:

  • You feel sad for hours or days on end.
  • You don't want to do anything that you usually enjoy.
  • It's hard to engage with others.
  • You want to stay in comfy clothes like pajamas or sweats.
  • Watching tv or otherwise entertaining yourself passively feels like the only thing you're up for.
  • Eating is less enjoyable than usual; alternately, you may want to eat lots of comfort foods.
  • You feel slowed down, like you're swimming through mud in order to walk.
  • It's challenging to do your job.
  • Life feels hopeless.

Here are some tips for dealing with these kinds of situations. They are discussed in greater detail in my book, Beyond Happiness and Meaning: Transforming Your Life Through Ethical Behavior. Character

Getting Out of a Funk

  • Accept that it’s happening.
  • Take time to contemplate how best to deal with the situation.
  • Identify those who may be affected by your decision (i.e., the stakeholders).
  • Think about how you can manage the situation in a way that improves your wellbeing.
  • First, do no harm to others.
  • Make decisions that contribute to the end goal of happiness.
  • Reflect on your decision.
  • Should you approach decision-making differently in the future.

Building Character

Building character requires repetition and consistency of behavior. The first step is to identify your own core values. It also helps to develop a personal code of ethics and a mission statement that incorporates those values.

The ancient Greeks believed in character-based ethics. They considered certain character traits as virtues, or positive ways of living their lives. This is something I address in my book.

I like virtue-based ethics because it places less emphasis on which rules people should follow and instead focuses on helping people develop good character traits, such as kindness and generosity. These character traits will, in turn, allow a person to make ethically appropriate decisions later in life. It can lead to a life of happiness and self-fulfillment.

A person’s character feeds into their reputation – for honesty, integrity, personal responsibility. It also influences whether a person will be respected by others. C.G. Jung puts it well: “You are what you do, not what you say you'll do.”

Posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on July 18, 2023. You can learn more about Steve’s activities by checking out his website at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/. Follow him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/StevenMintzEthics and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ethicssage.