The Importance of Character

The Importance of Character

Today, I want to talk about my friend, Steven Mintz and his recent post, Character and Free Speech Go Hand in Hand. Steven has rightly pointed out that character is a critical value and below is a little segment from his essay (which of course in no way does it justice).

The Josephson Institute identifies Six Pillars of Character. They include: trustworthiness; respect; responsibility; fairness; caring; and citizenship. I define them a bit differently and place them in six categories I call “The Magnificent Seven Core Ethical Values.”

Truthfulness: Be honest and non-deceptive: don’t hide important facts from others.

Trustworthiness: Keep promises, be reliable, treat others faithfully.

Responsibility: Be accountable for your actions; learn from your mistakes.

Fair-mindedness: Treat others equally, impartially, and objectively.

Respect: The Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Caring: Be kind to others; be sensitive to their needs; show empathy for others.

Civility: Listen to others attentively; don’t be rude or disrespectful.

All of Steven’s writing is constructed in carefully organized format and reading these little pieces does not give you the full flavor of his writing so please journey to his web site and read them all in full.

I think that character is often manifested in civic virtue and patriotism. One of things that pains me about modern society is the willingness of many businesses to casually discard American workers and Americans interests such as patents and trade secrets as long as the money is good enough. This kind of thinking is the opposite of character and is evidence of narcissism and greed.

It seems to me that we should actively seek to build character by rewards. Shouldn’t it be possible in our policies of taxation, in our rules admitting people to attend training or schooling that we could introduce the concept of rewarding virtue, not just good grades but good actions and living with others in mind?

If we want to have a society where we want the rules to be followed, shouldn’t we reward those that follow the rules? And rewards do not have to be money. It can be honor. Napoleon once wrote that a man wouldn’t give you his life for any sum of money but would gladly yield it up for a piece of metal on a ribbon but isn’t his little story more an example of how we wish to be thought of, and the sacrifices we are willing to make to others to appreciate and value our contributions?

Can we do something along those lines at this time in this society?

James Pilant


3 thoughts on “The Importance of Character

  1. The problem we run into, especially in a large society of over 300 million citizens, is the matter who should set the rules. What will the rules be? Is it possible to legislate character? If it’s not possible to legislate character, then we are left relying on the very nature of the individual. While cultural influences certainly have an impact on individual behavior, I think it is far more difficult to impact the inherent aspects of an individual’s character. I’ve often thought one of the greatest ways for a society to impact behavior is to ensure citizens’ needs are met as completely as possible. When people are desperate to meet their needs, they are far more likely to do unethical things to meet those needs.


  2. Another perspective is schools need to teach character development. It starts with values-based ethics education, such as the “Magnificent Seven Core Ethical Values.” Character education should evoke emotional responses in students and guide moral-decision making. Today, the emphasis in university education is on learning a set of ethical reasoning skills, applying them to hypothetical or real-world dilemmas, and then deciding what to do. The problem is students often parrot back what they believe the professor wants to hear rather than what they truly feel. Many educators tend to shy away from moral education because they fear being labeled as “preachy.” In society today, moral purpose and the motivation to do good by being good is rarely discussed. Character education needs to address the question: What sort of person should I be?


    1. “In society today, moral purpose and the motivation to do good by being good is rarely discussed. Character education needs to address the question: What sort of person should I be?”

      It’s true; moral purpose and motivations to do good by being good is rarely discussed. What, exactly, would be the answer to the question, “What sort of person should I be?” Is that determined strictly by behavior?


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