Here is a single sentence, in the form of a question, that encapsulates all we need to know about character: Without having to sign a contract or notarize a series of documents, without any eyewitnesses and devoid of any means of authentication, in the absence of evidence — with nothing more than a handshake and the timbre of your voice — can I trust you to be a man of your word?
That is how, I presume, your friends and family, including your colleagues and coworkers, know you are a person of character.
For, character is another word for ethics. And valor.
There is no business school seminar that can infuse students with, and there is no book on tape, or DVD from a “life coach” (minus the clipboard and whistle) or YouTube video on behalf of online learning that allows us to absorb, character.
Character is who you are — or, too frequently, who you are not.
Character is rare because it is not a natural human instinct like self-preservation.
We measure character by the deeds we perform, not the words we promise to try to honor.
We can see the character of a minority of men and women, the survivors in defense of that dwindling minority of life’s ultimate survivors: The elderly and dying few, their forearms branded by the faded but permanent ink of a wretched regime of torture and death, the orphans of Auschwitz and Treblinka, and Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen — the Holocaust survivors, and remnants of European Jewry — rescued from mass graves; resurrected, in a way, from the killing fields and crematoria of a war within a world war — saved from a campaign as odious as its bureaucratic name, and as evil as the banal authors of this foul idea, the Final Solution.
We call the heroes and heroines from this time of darkness — a government officially, and rightly, recognizes the protectors of these survivors — as the “Righteous Among the Nations.”
I call these people humanity’s greatest characters, furthering the character of their convictions.