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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Vasilca

What are Character Traits? (MC-1)

My new title The Diamond Soul - 5 Stepping Stones to Christlike Character is essentially a self-help book about improving your moral character and developing a harmonious personality. But what is moral character and which are its traits? And why would you want to improve your character? Read on, and you'll find the answers you're looking for.


What are Character Traits?

What is Character?

Webster’s Dictionary defines character as moral traits or attributes that make up and help distinguish one individual from another. The concept of character can imply a variety of features, but it mostly refers to character traits such as empathy, courage, loyalty, perseverance, integrity, trustworthiness, and so on. It also implies the adoption of correct principles of human conduct as the foundation of one's character. Modern psychology defines moral character as "a disposition to express behavior in consistent patterns of functions across a range of situations." The origin of the word comes from the ancient Greek language, where charakter meant engraved mark on a coin.

In American culture, the word character has played an essential role in explaining the rise of successful people in business, politics, culture, and military. In fact, during the first two hundred years or so of our republic, this word was the cornerstone of the so-called “character ethics,” which maintained that the basis of good relations between men should be their inner character. Dale Carnegie best described this kind of ethics in his writings about success before the Second World War.

Unfortunately, in the last seventy-five years or so, the character ethics have been slowly but surely displaced by a new kind of ethics based on moral relativism and personality attributes. Personality ethics tends to explain success more as a function of public image, charm, communication skills, and techniques to manipulate people and events. It also denies the existence of clear moral principles, for example, the polarity of good-evil and right-wrong.

However, during the last three decades, the public interest in the role that character plays in contemporary society has been steadily increasing both in America and abroad. Authoritative contemporary authors such as John Maxwell, Steven Covey, and James Clear have contributed significantly to the spread of new thinking regarding personal growth, which at its core it character improvement. And according to Professor Angela Duckworth, founder and CEO of the Character Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, now science can guide us a lot in this field. “Unlike in Aristotle’s time, now science can help us to improve our character,” she says.

Nowadays, many people use the words character and personality interchangeably. To some extent, this is acceptable because both terms refer to the qualities of an individual. However, from a semantic viewpoint, such use is in error, because each name describes a different thing. Let's look at them.

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 per se cannot be seen; it can only be inferred. Character is like the large and stable base of an iceberg hidden underwater, supporting the tip of the ice visible above water.

Personality is the outward manifestation of character expressed in patterns of speaking and behavior that are in complete harmony with the inner character. Personality is there for everyone to see. Personality is like the tip of an iceberg visible above water. However, it is supported by the much larger and stable base of the ice, which is the character.

Character is one's true nature, including identity, a sense of purpose, values, virtues, morals, and conscience.

The 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 a high degree of integrity of character. This means that more often than not, one has to resist the easier wrong in favor of the tougher right. Making the right choices requires integrity, judgment, problem-solving, and adaptability. Character communicates better than one thousand words, but it takes time to reveal itself. Good character creates trust and respect, attracts good people, and provides the foundation for meaningful relationships. That is the power of character.

When it comes to leaders, the character becomes the quintessential quality because the decisions and actions of a leader are viewed and assessed by others. The demonstrated character of a leader dramatically influences how other people emulate his conduct or disapprove of it. Character should not be confused with reputation. Character is what we really are, while reputation is what others think we are.

Character Traits List

Character traits are many and diverse. The following list provides examples of some of the most recognizable character traits in a work setting. See

















Positive Character Traits

Another way to look at positive character traits is to classify them into four areas of moral character development, as shown below.

Moral Character Traits: Honesty & Integrity; Caring and Compassion; Gratitude; Courage

Performance Character Traits: Self-discipline; Responsibility; Goal-setting; Grit

Intellectual Character Traits: Critical Thinking; Curiosity; Intellectual Independence

Civil Character Traits: Fairness; Respect; Volunteering

How is Moral Character Built?

We all should aspire to become people of good character. But where does the character come from? How is good character acquired? Character is something that we are not born with; we must learn it. The character forms over time through education, training, and experience in a continuous, iterative process. Experts in the field agree that several factors are significant sources in influencing the character and moral development: heredity, early childhood experiences, modeling by parents and adults, peer influence, teachings in school, extraordinary events in life, the general social environment, media, and culture.

Man with heavy hammer blows red-hot iron on the anvil. He is shaping his character traits with skill and patience.
Forging your character

All this is true because the above factors contribute to acquiring almost in an unconscious manner good and bad habits that define us as individuals at a certain point in time. At that time, if we are honest with ourselves, we may realize that we either have a good character, or a bad character, or a combination of both. In other words, we find ourselves to be either a virtuous person, or a sinful person, or a person possessing virtues and vices alike. Needless to say, the latter case is the most common.

For most people, the age at which such realization about character becomes apparent is late teens, early adulthood. For other people, it may happen later in life, or not at all. For those of us who are aware of it, that point in time comes to be a turning point in our lives. Why is that? Simply because now we can take charge of our character through self-development, to grow it, shape it, and mold it the way we want. And why would you want to do that? Because you will get many benefits which we will examine in other blogs. For now, suffices to say that the main advantages of improving your character will be greater self-confidence, higher self-esteem, and boundless joy of life. There is enough value in it, isn't it?

Factors of great significance in character formation may be special events in one's life. Typical examples are overcoming sickness, going through great adversities, or being influenced by a talented mentor. For other people, embracing the Christian faith. becomes a milestone in their life. Why is that? I believe because the faith requires submission to a perfect God, who in turn demands his worshipers to obey his good commands and become good people themselves. As a result, all Christians expect to benefit from the grace of God, who sends into them the Holy Spirit to illuminate, guide, and strengthen them. But on this subject, we will meet again in future blogs.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and will benefit from its message. Please subscribe to my weekly Diamond Soul newsletter which will deliver informative and inspiring articles in your inbox every Monday. Thank you!

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