Character Intelligence

Part II of a Four Part Series:

Character is pursuing and developing moral excellence, which leads to self-mastery. Character is a word, which conveys the process of engraving or chiseling and giving a new form to raw material. For instance, skilled workers using the hammer and chisel crafted ancient statues very methodically and patiently; shaping some of the most renowned pieces of art we admire today. Within time an onlooker could see a face or an image emerge from the granite rock. This process is also happens with people. During our childhood we are similar to that marble slab, which over time, through discipline, the right choices and actions, and self-correction a new character emerges in one’s life.

A great example of character comes from one of our Founding Fathers, George Washington. At the young age of sixteen he wrote down a list of life principles to govern his conduct. It is known today as Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, and it consists of 110 principles of conduct he determined to live his life by that ultimately shaped his character. Here’s a sample with my interpretation in brackets:{1}

  1. Rule #50 – Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any. [Don’t believe dirty gossip about someone without first finding the facts yourself before making a judgment.]

  2. Rule #82 – Undertake not what you cannot perform, but be careful to keep your promise. [The first part means don’t commit to something you cannot handle.]

  3. Rule #101 – Rinse not your mouth in the presence of others. [Don’t spit in front of people.]

So how is character formed? Good and virtuous character is formed by seeking out truth and the highest principles of conduct, and through determined life application and self-correction a person begins to distinguish his or herself from others.

Do you see sixteen-year old young men and women today who think and act like this? I haven’t found one yet. We must ask this question:

Why did George Washington become the most prominent figure in American history? Was it because he took the time to mold his character into one of preeminence, which brought him to a place of prominence?

Washington, George (1989) George Washington’s Rules of Civilty & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. Little Books of Wisdom: Applewood Books: Medford, MA.


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