Which are your Character Strengths?
What is Character?
Webster’s Dictionary defines character as moral attributes or features that make up and distinguish one individual from another. The concept of character can imply a variety of attributes that can be good, bad, or neutral. People may say, therefore, that someone is of good character, or he/she has a bad character, or has a so-so character. For the purpose of our discussion, we are interested in examining only those features which define a good character. Positive features come from virtuous attributes such as love, empathy, fortitude, loyalty, perseverance, integrity, trustworthiness, and so on. A good character also implies the adoption of ethical principles of human conduct. The origin of the word comes from the ancient Greek language, where charakter meant engraved mark on a coin.
Character traits are also known as character strengths, a phrase coined by the experts at the Center for Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and widely accepted by all practitioners of positive psychology, including the VIA Institute on Character. In my book The Diamond Soul: 5 Stepping Stones to Christlike Character, I use the metaphor of a polished diamond to describe the character itself, and cut and polished facets of the diamond as the character traits. Therefore, character traits, character strengths, and diamond facets mean the same thing!
Is Character the same as Personality?
No, it is not. Let me explain with an illustration.
Character is what is inside us, in our souls, hearts, and minds. It is a set of core principles that we strongly believe in and have adopted as guiding lights for our lives. Character is like the large and stable base of an iceberg hidden underwater, which supports the tip of the ice visible above water.
Personality is the outward manifestation of character expressed in patterns of behavior that are in complete alignment with the inner character. Personality is there for everyone to see but is supported by the character. Personality is like the tip of an iceberg, visible above water, but supported by the much larger and stable base of the ice.
Character is one's true nature consisting of a full spectrum of traits such as moral values, a sense of purpose, virtues, self-esteem, identity, and conscience. Character is the essence of who the individual is, what he values and believes, and how he behaves. Doing the right thing the right way for the right reason all the time demonstrates the integrity of character. This means that more often than not one has to resist the easier wrong in favor of the tougher right. Character communicates better than one thousand words, but it takes time to be revealed. Good character creates trust and respect, attracts good people, and provides the foundation for meaningful relationships. That is the power of character!
Looking at character and personality as two separate entities gives us the perfect paradigm to explain duplicity. A duplicitous person is one of a bad character inside, dressed up with a joyful and charismatic personality. Such individual talks and does pleasant things, but deep inside he nurtures hidden and malevolent purposes. He just waits for the right moment to take advantage of those fooled by his charming behavior, thus revealing his true nature - a cheat. Stay away from such people!
VIA Institute on Character.
This organization is founded on the new science of positive psychology and provides research, counseling, and services related to character development. Institute’s mission is to help people change their lives by tapping into the power of their own greatest strengths. VIA is an acronym standing for Values In Action.
But what is positive psychology? According to Professor Seligman, one of the pioneers in this field, “Positive psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. From its very inception, the science of psychology justifiably focused most of its attention on human suffering. Unfortunately, it failed to devote much attention to what makes life worth living. Positive psychology is founded on the belief that people want more than an end to suffering. People want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play”
The dominant theory in positive psychology is PERMA, which is an acronym standing for Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishments. In 2004, two pro-eminent American psychologists, C. Peterson and M. Seligman, published the Handbook of Character Strength and Virtues, which identifies six classes of virtues and twenty-four character strengths.
The VIA classification of Virtues and Character Strengths is as follows:
Wisdom: creativity, curiosity, judgment, love of learning, perspective
Courage: bravery, persistence, honesty, zest
Humanity: love, kindness, social intelligence
Justice: teamwork, fairness, leadership
Temperance: forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation
Transcendence: appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality
Which are the Main Traits of your Character?
To find out, take the VIA Personality Survey. It takes only 10 minutes, it's free and available worldwide. It will tell you who you really are by pointing out your Signature Strengths, your Middle Strengths, and your Lesser Strengths. This is precisely what you want! This is your baseline starting point on your journey of character improvement, personal development, and spiritual growth.
After taking the survey on VIA’s website, please come back here and reflect on how my book The Diamond Soul will help you along the way. Remember, my book is a field manual providing practical step-by-step instructions for your personal development. Buy it now!
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