The Difference Between Behavior and Character: Nothing

Your Character

In response to declarations of “This is just who I am! Deal with it!” or “I can’t control it, this is who I am!” I’ve forever maintained that there is a huge and critical difference between behavior and personality. I’m here to say that I was completely wrong about that. There’s no real difference at all.

You’re right. Your behavior is the most critical indicator of who you are. In fact, your behavior is probably the most telling aspect of your character to exist. I can earmark a compassionate person by the service I observe them quietly give. They are a perfect example of behavior being descriptive of personality.

I can tell if someone’s personality is equipped with a great sense of humor by listening to them speak. Again, the jokes they tell or the way that they converse and interact with others is a dead giveaway as to the kinds of things they think are funny or their relative ease in a crowd. You got me. I can tell exactly who they are.

It’s funny though. I can also spot selfishness the same way. I know if a person’s selfish by the way they treat the needs of other people, whether those people be their family members or friends or strangers. Observing the way people prioritize their time always to their own benefit or the way they fixate on their own needs is a surefire sign of that personality trait.

Likewise, I can tell if a person is courteous by how they treat a waiter or a grocery store clerk. I can know if a person is kind by watching them interact with young children or the elderly. A person’s job performance could indicate their intelligence or their work ethic. I can tell if a person is deceitful by the lies they tell or know if they’re cantankerous by the scenes they cause.

So there you have it. You’re absolutely right. Your behavior is exactly who you are.

Anyway, I hate to be the one to break this to you, but you’re also very, very wrong.

Yeah, that part about people needing to just deal with your less than ideal behavior or the part where you claim that you can’t or shouldn’t have to change it, is complete and utter nonsense.

Personalities, characters . . . those are the sorts of things that are built. Your character is built one moment at a time, one choice at a time, until the summation of those choices becomes an intrinsic part of who you are.

Sure, I get it. You’re rude the majority of the time so you think that you can write it off as a character flaw that people should learn to deal with. Sorry, not a chance. If you’re frequently rude, which I think most people could agree is not exactly a favorable trait, then it would probably be in your best interest to start using your moments to build a character the exact opposite of that.

Oh, but you’ve always thought only of yourself and it’s the only way you can ensure that you get exactly what you want? I see. Well, the likelihood of you developing any sort of uplifting, lasting relationship from that sort of selfishness is slim to none. Therefore, the logical step would be to start using your moments to think about other people. Start building an unselfish character instead.

The beauty of who we are as human beings is that we have complete control over our own characters. Yes, I understand that your upbringing could have been horrible. I’m also aware of the fact that you may not have had a good example in your life to teach you a better way. But there are all sorts of people in your shoes who choose to climb out of that hole. There are people who take responsibility for their humanity and choose to make decisions that not only lift them continually, but everyone else as well.

I fear that as our society continues to place more and more emphasis on entitlement we’re going to turn out droves of people with no concept as to the hows and whys of personal responsibility. And I don’t mean that in just the financial sense.

We’re going to see multitudes of people refusing to take any responsibility for their decisions. We’re going to see more and more people who refuse to take charge of themselves, people who are certain that their rudeness or their selfishness or their pride or their deceit are just who they are instead of who they built.

Our characters, whether admirable or downright disgusting, are the direct result of the things we’ve chosen and the moments that we’ve lived. No one is excused from that responsibility regardless of how they play into the illusion that it’s not their fault.

As a parent, I feel like one of my biggest concerns is that my children learn personal responsibility. I try to guide them to make decisions that will lift them up, decisions that will build honor and kindness and compassion. Ultimately though, my children will grow up, and in that moment they will not be any more exempt than I am from the responsibility that is theirs.

Your character is the witness to the life you’ve lived and the choices you’ve made. If you want to bring honor to your existence then live in an honorable way. Take responsibility for who you are and the things that you do. And if you choose well, the people who have to “deal with it” will bless your name instead of looking at it with disdain.

Seriously, tell me what you think.