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Character Hurt Harm Learn Character

A person’s character can be found in defining moments, which are so packed with meaning that they shimmer through time. These moments are peak experiences. A peak experience will define a person’s moral character, which can instantly expand awareness and alter one’s sense of self.

Peak Experiences

In the middle of a date, her first with Doug, Joan received an urgent phone call. Could she please do an immediate on-air radio interview?

Joan had after all, just written a well-received book about politics, and there had been big political news breaking all that week. Caught completely off guard, she agreed. She signaled to Doug that she had to take the call and moved to an empty corner of the restaurant to speak.

Fifteen minutes later, she looked up and saw Doug was standing nearby. Had he heard the whole thing? Before an embarrassed Joan could muster up an apology for this intrusion on their romantic interlude, Doug spoke up. “Look,” he said, “I heard only your half of the conversation, but I thought you were terrific.” I’m so sorry to have inflicted this on you,” Joan stammered. “No worry,” he shot back. “I expect great things of the people I hang around with.”

In an instant, Joan apprehended that Doug was trustworthy and on her side. Doug would look out for her and protect her interests.

These peak experiences can shed an illuminating light on the deepest dimensions of a person’s being. Moral character discloses a person’s deepest intentions toward you. A person’s moral character will let you know if this person is helpful or harmful.


Character is in short supply on the national political stage. Flashier parts of personality have overshadowed good character.

Character is king in finding those who will hurt or harm you. It is the first and the most important thing people actually perceive in others. They are rapidly gathering information about a person’s kindness, fairness, honesty, trustworthiness, and loyalty.

Character is not social skills. Two features will form our impression of others. Those two features are warmth and their competence.  People define warmth as kindness, humility, compassion, fairness, gratitude and empathy. In our judgment of others, honesty outranks even kindness.

Character reveals a person’s deepest intentions toward you: Will a person be helpful or inflict harm? Knowing someone’s character provides important information about how that person is likely to treat you, which includes situations when you can’t monitor their behavior. Trustworthiness influences the likelihood someone will cooperate with you, which is essential in business and personal relationships.  Personal vulnerability is the gateway to intimacy.

Trust is what creates the willingness to be vulnerable in social interactions. It is the single most important ingredient for developing and sustaining healthy relationships.


Trust is found in how well he or she will follow through on plans, goals, commitments, and values. We care about the warmth a person generates and about the individual’s competence. But above all we want to know about moral character. It is our best guarantee of safety on the social axis on which we spin.

“Character is so fundamental because we interact with people all the time,” says psychologist Taya Cohen, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Carnegie Mellon University. “Our moral character helps us balance our own interests with those of others. Morality, by definition, is about regulating social relationships.”

Her studies showed an element of moral character is the degree to which a person takes other’s perspectives into account and feels responsibility for not harming them.  They consider the behavioral consequences of what they do on others’ welfare.

Social character is not limited to social life. Character information is crucial to a person’s identity and self worth, which includes those that regard it as important to be and be seen as moral.

Having the desire to do good is necessary, but it is not sufficient. One must also have the capacity to do good and avoid doing harm. Should internal mechanisms to shore up self-control-the primary function of gossip. The court of last resort is the laws.

Behavior Only

Behavior is the only thing that defines character. Moral character shows itself only when some kind of choice is required. Most everyday circumstances do not present a test of loyalty. On the other hand, there may be far more everyday opportunities for showing kindness and compassion.

Those with high moral character especially avoid environments that could lead to others being harmed. They do more. They even shape situations. Doug is Exhibit A. Instead of brooding about a date gone off track, he saw an opportunity to facilitate Joan’s various goals and allay her concerns about disappointing him.

Doug facilitated a peak experience. My mother-in-law told me that her daughter received a full ride scholarship to Nazareth college. She and my father-in-law turned down the scholarship and paid for her to go to college. She wanted to give the scholarship to someone who couldn’t afford college, which is a moment that shimmers through time.


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