I’ve been thinking about character lately given our intense political climate of “character assignation.” It’s not that uncommon, really. As an organizational development consultant and leadership coach for many years, I’m intimate with how the emergence of any form of leadership is both covertly and openly attacked. Those of us courageous enough to take a stance—whether politically or in our personal relationships—are fair game for character attack or rejection. Yet to not take a stance is a form of self-betrayal and denies the heart’s generous nature. Too many of us live silenced and paralyzed in fear, often envious or highly critical of risk takers, while others, despite this fear, step out.
What do I mean by character? Character is the livelihood of intention—blooms from the seeds of our intent. Character is expression—something we manifest and can see, feel, and shape to our likeness. Character is action—it keeps the heart and eyes open and the mouths and feet moving. Character is relational—it cannot be known until it is shared or engaged. It requires feedback.
Wholesome character is qualitative. It has to do with integrity—showing up, keeping our word, telling the truth, and sharing our wisdom in ways that benefit all beings. Kept to oneself, character is merely a thought, concept, ideal, or secret.
Core to character is belonging. We belong to each other and this planet, and are dependent on each other’s goodness. When we don’t recognize, honor, or utilize the wholesome character of others and the gifts that surround and support us, we are disconnected from the fuel of aliveness and its relational sustenance.
When we are disconnected, we are unaware or surprised by our affect on others. For example, when we receive feedback that does not match our intentions, our first reaction may be to reject what we are hearing and rebel. Our second reaction however could be to consider the validity of the feedback or at a minimum its impact. And there are times when despite our best efforts and reflections, people will simply attack or rejection our character. In these trying circumstances, don't try to figure out why this is happening. It's important to stand firm with a fierce heart and keep the hate and ill-will out of the interactions. This is not easy, just necessary.
While change is constant, it does not guarantee evolution of character. To evolve character requires mindfulness. Mindfulness invites us to warmly notice our true nature and intentions, and character is the expression of this truth. When we are mindful, the content of our character evolves becoming more authentic, discerning, sensitive, and skillful life expressions. We more readily notice when the impact of our actions don’t match our heart’s intention and we realign. This realigning evolves character.
Character does not have to be grandiose. It can be a daily practice of kindness, or an hourly practice of forgiveness, or moment-to-moment gratitude for the courage to be a genuine human in a universal heart.