The Character Movement

Am I a Person of Character?

This blog post was written by Tom Langseth, Senior Vice President of Distribution Relationship Management at Allianz Life of North America. He is also on the Youth Frontiers board of directors. Below he shares his thoughts about what it means to be a person of character.

Recently, I was talking to a friend about his adult daughter’s boyfriend. The young pair appeared to be getting more serious as a couple and they were considering possible next steps. I asked my friend to evaluate the young man.

“Is he a man of character?” I asked.
My friend said, “What do you mean?”
A bit incredulous, I responded, “Isn’t it self evident? Is he a man of character?”

My friend said that he wasn’t sure how to respond to my question or how to make that evaluation.

Reflecting on that exchange, I should’ve responded differently. While character may have seemed self-evident to me, it was clear that the two of us needed common language to truly define the traits of character and how they are displayed. In a world that places too much emphasis on celebrity and material success, we may have lost clarity on the tenants of core values like character, integrity and honor.

That being said, I thought of three common characteristics that I would use to describe people of character:

    • They take responsibility for their decisions. People of character neither live their lives as victims nor invest much energy in blame. Instead, they take responsibility for their decisions and consider what new choices they must make going forward to live their lives in alignment with their objectives.
    • They make and keep commitments – no matter what the cost. People of character have the strength of commitment to put themselves on the line and act in ways that are consistent with their word. This is especially true when the cost is high or the commitment demands hard work to persevere. People of high character will endure through difficult times doing whatever it will take to honor their commitments.
    • Their focus is on others, not only themselves. Rather than being consumed in self-interest, people of character place their focus on others around them. This includes their family, their friends and others to whom they can make a positive difference. Character, for me, is akin to other virtues like kindness and generosity.

Character matters. It is the foundation of a society, a company, a family, a life well lived. I am proud to be on the board of directors for Youth Frontiers because of the organization’s central goal of elevating core values like character, respect and kindness among young people. Amidst the voices of influence on kids today, a call to build character can be life changing.

As I replay my conversation with my friend, I’m thinking less about my friend’s assessment of his daughter’s boyfriend. The real question I really should be asking (as should we all): “Am I a person of character?”

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