“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” -Abraham Lincoln
As a coach I always proclaimed that losing doesn’t build character, it reveals it. The truth is, so does winning.
History proclaims that Cincinnatus was a reluctant leader. Granted the powers of a dictator, he left his farm, put country ahead of comfort, and led the defense of the Roman Empire against the invading Aequi. A swift victory led to an even swifter resignation from power by Cincinnatus. As in many of history’s greatest stories, it’s hard to truly know where the facts end and the legend begins. Still, these stories persist because the virtues they inspire keep us telling them. We love this one because Lucius’ behavior after his big win revealed some serious character.
Character by definition means “to scratch” or “to engrave.” When I think of character I think of something that is forged. Strong character is forged from a strong core, a core that gives you clarity about what you believe and who you are, a core that aligns how you are living with your identity and beliefs. Thus, your character becomes forged for those around you to see. Failing to live in alignment with what you profess creates character flaws, easily recognized by those in your orbit as an “integrity gap.” Fact, we ALL have integrity gaps, most of which we cannot see. Do not let the fact that you are blind to them lead you to believe others are as well.
Do not confuse character with reputation. Our character is autotelic, that is, it comes from within, while our reputation is exotelic, it is what others think of us. A core-centered, self-controlling character is the one we want. Chasing others’ opinions of us… well, have fun with that.
So, the next time your mind turns to the city to our south, while supporting its teams, taking a visit, or just driving through, remember the Roman farmer from which the city takes its name. Give some thought to the behaviors that are forging your character, and then maybe ask a true friend to illuminate any gaps they might see.
Go Reds. (That’s for you, Gu’).