"One's character is the outline of one's soul.The foundation of your character is your personality; something which lies within the heart of your very being. It cannot be forged or counterfeited. The very thing that makes the person a substance of lasting worth is their character; never the experience encountered. In the experience, one's character may be developed, but only one's response will ever define it. An ass who goes travelling will never come home a horse, but will forever stay an ass!
There have been many opinions expressed upon what it is that goes to make up character; many undoubtedly valid in their rawest truth. I recall as a young man, being blown away by the 'I have a dream' speech of Martin Luther King Junior, where he spoke of one day being able to live in a nation where a person would not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.
I came from Ireland as a child immigrant to England in 1947, a host country where the Irish newcomer was not held in high regard and was often taunted with the label of 'Tinker' and told to 'Go back home' at every opportunity, I very soon came to value the character of my parents, as shown by their responses to the daily circumstances they faced. While one's talents and learning are usually nurtured in peace and solitude, my mother's character was formed in the storm clouds of a migrant's experience.
I will never forget the words of my mum one day when I complained that a neighbour had been disparaging about the country of my birth. Mum said, 'Don't worry about being called names, Billy. They are good people deep down and they are only wary of us because they don't know us. Give them time. Once they get to know us, they'll like us; who wouldn't?' Mum's words told me that there is no time when we disclose our own character so clearly than when we describe the character of another. It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said that anyone's opinion upon another is no less than a confession of their own character.
One of my friends with whom I grew up with on the estate where I lived was called Brian. Brian was a quiet person who never got into fights or arguments. He was a friendly chap who always seemed happy to go along with the rest of the gang. Despite being hopeless at all manner of sport, Brian always loved to take part. It was he who effectively taught me that to participate was more important than to win. Whereas the way a person plays a game shows some of their character, the way a person copes with losing, shows it all!
There are far too many individuals in the world today who over-concern themselves what others think of them. My advice would be to be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because character reflects who you are, whereas reputation is merely what others think of you.
My deceased father was most certainly a man who had 'character' in spades. While he left school to work for the family as soon as he became 13 years old and received little formal education, he was greatly respected by all of his peers. He effectively reminded me through being the man he was, that while knowledge may give one power, respect is only given to those with character. I will never forget him being the only miner from his pit in Birstal to walk through a picket line of striking work mates during the early 1950's when his children were young and his family increased in number, year upon year. His character enabled him to be prepared to put the welfare of his family before his pride and to incur the wrath of his work mates of being thought 'a scab'. This was an action that I later came to greatly admire, despite becoming the youngest textile shop steward in Great Britain at the age of 18 years and bringing over 300 men and women out on the first strike that the firm of Harrison Gardeners in Hightown had since it opened a hundred years earlier.
When we observe people of power in Government Office today, seldom do we see a politician who is prepared to act against their own vested interest for the benefit of the majority. Even those politicians who reached the highest office and whose actions have entered the history books; even they are often prepared to do the very thing that will attract them the most votes, whether it is the right or wrong thing for the country at the time!
It was Abraham Lincoln who believed that the best way to test a person's character was to give them power. While I see what Lincoln was getting at, I have always believed that true character never lies in the spotlight and that the measure of a person's character can best be seen in what they would do if they knew that they'd never be found out. So I'd prefer to stick with my description of character than that of the great Lincoln and continue to believe that true character is doing what is right when nobody else is looking." William Forde: November 23rd, 2016.