“Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
— Abraham Lincoln
“Our assessment of a person’s character is an opinion and it isn’t always right. In the quote above, Abraham Lincoln recognized an important difference between character and reputation. Because the shape of a shadow is determined by the angle of light and the perspective of the observer, it’s not a perfect image of the tree. In the same way, reputation is not always an accurate reflection of character. Some people derive more benefit from their reputation than they deserve; others are better than their reputations.”
The material quoted above is being shared from the What Will Matter blog written by Michael Josephson, president of the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics.
This institute is based in southern California, and conducts training to help people who want to make our society more honest, fair, caring, and accountable.
They base their programs and materials on six ethical values referred to as the Six Pillars of Character to help guide our choices as shown below:
Build trust and credibility with integrity (consistency between beliefs, words and actions), honesty (truthfulness, sincerity and candor), promise-keeping, and loyalty (fidelity to family, friends, and country).
Honor the worth and dignity of all individuals. Treat others the way you would want to be treated. Act courteously, civilly, peaceably, and nonviolently. Be tolerant and accepting of differences. Avoid rude, offensive, and abusive words and actions.
Be accountable for your words, actions, and attitudes. Exercise self-control. Strive for excellence and self-improvement. Plan ahead. Set a good example for others. Be self-reliant, prudent, proactive, persistent, and hard-working.
Be consistent, open, and treat all people equitably. Consider all sides and make decisions on the facts without favoritism or prejudice. Play by the rules, avoid careless accusations, and don’t take undue advantage of others. Pursue justice and condemn injustice.
Be kind, compassionate, empathetic, charitable, forgiving, and grateful.
Obey laws in good faith. Do your share to improve the well-being of fellow citizens and the community. Protect the environment, volunteer, and participate in the processes of democracy by staying informed and voting.
Reread the Six Pillars of Character.