What is character? We all have it. Some of us have good character, while others have questionable character. Often, we refer to someone with a flamboyant, or odd, personality as "a real character." Webster's dictionary defines character; "The complex mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person, group, or nation." Dharma explained to me that no one is born with good character; it's not a hereditary trait. Character, he added, isn't determined by a single noble act, either. Character is, then, established by conscientious adherence to to moral values...not by lofty words or good intentions. Dharma believes that character is ethics in action. Character is evidenced by your life's virtues and it's the "line you never cross." My wise teacher expands on this to say that character is the most valuable thing we have and nobody can ever take it away...unless we allow it. Character in life is what makes people (and frogs, too) believe in you. It is essential for individual success, as well as for all of society to flourish. Good character equals integrity. Integirty means adhering to a moral code of honesty, courage, strength, and truthfulness. When we don't exhibit integrity, others get hurt...but we hurt ourselves even more.
Dharma explained to me why character isn't a gift; it's not given to us and we don't inherit it. How, then, is character a victory, I wondered? Dharma descibed it this way; "A frog's character and a human's , too...whether good or bad, is determined by the path we choose to take. But there are evil forces in the world that will try to lead us astray, Irwin. It's a tough battle and gets tougher as time goes on. But the way we treat others, especially the ones whom we think can't hurt us, like clerks in the store, secretaries, or the trash man, tell more about our character than how we treat the people we think are important. Thus, Tadpole, character is both formed, and revealed, by how one deals with everyday situations, as well as extraordinary pressures and temptations. We must battle both the outer, as well as our own inner demons all the time. It takes courage and strength to win each battle. Are you able to see now how maintaining a good character, Irwin, is a victory?" It was all becoming crytal clear to me.
When my lesson was over, as I watched Dharma frog hop away, I gave thought to what my wise teacher had said. I know, now, that character counts everywhere; not simply when we're being observed by others. Good character is, I think, truly formed and solidified when we behave well while no one is watching. The good character of us all, is what will propel the world ahead in a positive way. With so many tempations and evil forces all vying for our attention, it becomes important to be ever-vigilant. We as individuals can win our own small battles, but it will take the good character of society at-large, to win the war.