Seven Attributes of Good Character

We all have areas in our personal, professional, and social lives where we have failed. It is hard to point the finger, as we all make mistakes, big and small. So, how do we improve? How can we do more of the right things and less of the wrong ones?

Who we are as a person is the total of everything we have learned as children, plus the choices we make and habits we develop as we grow older. The good news is that we can always learn to make better choices, we can choose to believe in better values, we can create better habits, we can continue to learn.  We will never attain a perfect state; we are humans, and we will continue to make mistakes and experience success and failure in every aspect of our lives. We learn lessons through our defeats. Failure motivates me to change. Ponder this: our most significant pain comes from mistakes we make; our greatest fears come from the consequences of our wrong choices; it follows that our greatest joy will come from doing the right things, and greater love will cast away our fears.

What we do and say reflects our values!   Values are beliefs that help empower our life and the quality of what we experience. How we act and behave in our everyday life, reflects our deep-seated convictions and beliefs. Live by your set of values, and do not compromise them was the advice given to me by my grandfather.

Character is what we are when we are all alone. It is what we do when there is no one around to impress. Reputation is what people think of us; character is who we know we are. The existence or lack of certain virtues will determine who we are.  I believe there are seven attributes of good character: fortitude, tolerance, compassion, patience, hope, faith, and love.

Fortitude is courage in the face of adversity. It is the means by which individuals have the emotional power or reserves to withstand and confront serious problems.   Our mistakes and failures provide us with the opportunity to develop a type of courage which is born of humility, rather than of bravado.                                            

Tolerance is a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins differ from our own. It permits freedom from bigotry.

Compassion involves allowing me to be moved by suffering of others and experiencing the motivation to help alleviate and prevent it.  Often an individual goes out of their way to help the physical, mental, or emotional pains of another and themselves. Compassion involves sensitivity, another emotional aspect of suffering. It is often based on notions of fairness, justice, and interdependence, it is rational in nature, and most often based on sound judgment. 

Patience is the ability to endure difficult circumstances such as delay; or a provocation without responding in annoyance. It is forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. Patience is the level of endurance one can have before negativity. It is also used to refer to the trait of being steadfast.

Faith is confidence or trust in a person, thing, or concept. In the context of spiritual matters it is belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of a spiritual leader. For some, faith is confidence based on a perceived degree of justification, while others who are more skeptical view faith as belief without evidence.

Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world. Hope allows us to expect outcomes with confidence and to cherish a desire with anticipation. Hope is necessary to keep us focused on the goal because we are never in charge of outcomes, no matter the effort we put in.

Love is a feeling of strong attraction and emotional attachment. It  encompasses a range of strong and positive emotional and mental states, from the most sublime virtue or good habit, to the deepest personal affection and to the simplest pleasure The love of a mother for her child  differs from the love of her spouse, which differs from the love of food. But they are all love. Love for each other is the way to peace and serenity.

Why do I want to cultivate these seven attributes? Why am I concerned about the content of my character?  When I took a fearless look at myself through a rigorous inventory, I did not like who I had become.  I was not close to the “good” man I imagined myself to be.  My father-in-law, who I considered to be a weak man at one time, became my role model as he was the man I wanted to be..  I wanted the core ethical values of honesty and integrity, respecting others, taking responsibility for one’s actions, being fair and just, and being someone who promotes love and compassion in others. I wanted to be filled with humility, courage, justice, temperance, and the value of human dignity. My well-being—indeed my very existence—depends upon the content of my character.

These seven attributes were the necessary ingredients for me to become the new person I wanted to be, the rebirth of Michael. The first four of these character traits give me tools to deal with my own suffering as well as that of others. Keep moving forward despite my mistakes and shortcomings is the fundamental lesson I have found to have peace and serenity, which equates to a successful life. The last three are ways to proceed to freedom and joy. Trust yourself to do the right thing and joy will come your way.  Its joy that I am after. Happiness is too dependent upon transitory things and other people. Joy comes from faith, hope and love. Trust God knows what you need. He will do for you what you cannot do for yourself. And love God and others with all your heart.

FEAR HOPE GREED

FEAR HOPE GREED

Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger which has strong roots in human evolution. If people didn’t feel fear, they couldn’t protect themselves from legitimate threats, which in the ancestral world frequently resulted in life-or-death consequences.

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In the modern world, individuals often fear situations in which the stakes are much lower, such as public speaking, but their bodies and brains may still treat the threat as lethal. This can trigger an extreme, although often unnecessary, fight-flight-or-freeze response. As a result, people may find themselves avoiding challenges that could benefit them in the long run or hanging back during social interactions.

When people today do face deadly or extreme danger, it can sometimes cause lingering trauma. Such trauma can trigger a fear response that is hard to quell, even when the risk has passed. We will fear the coronavirus until a vaccine emerges in 5 years and for many years after.

The process of creating fear takes place in the brain and is entirely unconscious. There are two paths involved in the fear response: The Quick Response is quick and messy, while the Thoughtful Response takes more time and delivers a more precise interpretation of events. Both processes happen simultaneously.

The idea behind the quick response is “take no chances.” If the front door to your home is suddenly knocking against the frame, it could be the wind. It could also be a burglar trying to get in. It’s far less dangerous to assume it’s a burglar and have it turn out to be the wind than to assume it’s the wind and have it turn out to be a burglar. The quick response shoots first and asks questions later.

The thoughtful response is much more cerebral. While the quick response is initiating the fear response just in case, the thoughtful response is considering all of the options. Is it a burglar, or is it the wind? Have I seen this particular stimulus before? If so, what did it mean that time? What other things are going on that might give me clues as to whether this is a burglar or a windstorm?

The sensory data regarding the door — the stimulus — is following both paths at the same time. But being thoughtful takes longer than a flash. That’s why you have a moment or two of terror before you decide to run or not.

Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.  Hope comes into its own when crisis looms, opening us to new creative possibilities. It includes the existence of a goal, combined with a determined plan for reaching that goal. The difference between hope and optimism is that the former includes practical pathways to an improved future.

I hope the vaccine for the coronavirus happens on a shorter time frame than I expect. This fear will remain and will limit future improvements. But my hope is that it will enable us to see our connectedness and need for each other.

Hope should be viewed as a cognitive skill that demonstrates an individual’s ability to maintain drive in the pursuit of a particular goal. An individual’s ability to be hopeful depends on two types of response: the individual’s determination to achieve their goals despite possible obstacles and the individual belief that they can achieve these personal goals without a doubt. But it is important to set realistic goals that have a reasonable probability of being achieved. It is important for individuals to find something they can be passionate about, makes them feel good about themselves and would help them remain hopeful of their ability to achieve these goals. Hope is a way to maintain personal motivation, which ultimately will result in a greater sense of optimism.

I have high hopes!

Greed is the intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.  Greed is an excessive love or desire for money or any possession. It is not merely caring about money and possessions but caring too much about them. The greedy person is too attached to his things and his money, or he desires more money and more things in an excessive way.

We tolerate greed, because we accept the hard bargain that it can do good, not that it is good.  The pursuit of self-interest is the driving force for assembling resources and putting them to their best use. Greed bears fruit in many ways.

Greed has always been the imp of capitalism, the mischief it makes for those faithful capitalists. Their troubled consciences are not the result of doubts about the efficacy of free markets, but of the centuries of moral reform that was required to make those markets as free as they are.

But greed has taken America too far.  Companies no longer pursue increased productivity, new and improved products or new production facilities.  CEOs keep sales on a modest upward track and use cash to buy back stock which increases earnings per share.  With increases in earnings PER SHARE, the stock market rewards shareholders with a higher price. Everyone is happy including the CEO and other senior managers as their big bonuses are triggered.

I have long felt that fear, hope and greed fuel the stock market and most everything else. Look at the following chart.

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Fear is the bottom of a bear market and no one wants stocks.  Of course, it is the best time to buy.  At the top (greed), everyone believes this market will go on forever unlike any cycle in the past. It doesn’t!

Is this pandemic a means of acquainting us with suffering, so we can retreat from greed, become fearful and then regain hope again?