Abul Pakir Jainulabeen Abdul Kalam spent his entire life learning to stand tall with a short height. He dedicated his days in the service of the nation and rose up to be the President of India. Despite his position, he lived humbly. When he left this materialistic world for his heavenly abode, he left behind a treasure of books, his veena and a few clothes, stacked tightly in a tiny room. Such is the demeanor of people of substance.
Character is an ingrained aspect of a person’s personality. It is character that builds and balances our everyday relationships. It is the weight of these relationships that dictate our social standing. Our actions are a direct reflection of our persona, guided by character.
The truth of our character lies in bring true to the cause and consequent action. It dictates that a sound moral character is a prime requisite before exhibiting, socially acceptable behavior. The character – action setup needs to be in a harmonious balance to minimize cognitive dissonance.
Quoting examples from the Indian struggle for independence, one comes across young freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru. Often their practices are considered to be a form of militarian nationalism. The actions of these sons of the soil are compared to the silent revolution led by Mahatma Gandhi and the moderates of the Congress banking on truth, non violence, prayer and petition. But it must not be so. The character of our freedom fighters and the methods they applied cannot be compared. All have expended their blood and energy into protecting the honour of the motherland.
The true identification of character lies in the way we perceive a situation and decide on the course of action. This character is supplemented by the values we give preference. If our character is built on the vaules of empathy and kindness we will act accordingly.
The sight of transgenders begging at the signals convinces us to help them monetarily owing to their situation in life. The same sight causes some to turn a blind eye to their plight really quick. This is another instance of how, the way our character is shaped, influences our personality and ultimately – behavior.
The greatest test of character is when no one is watching. A young student at hostel living miles away from her family has a choice to make. She can either spend days missing classes or she can continue to work day in and day out. Self imposed morality or a coerced form of morality in this situation will bring results that are favourable.
The difficult part of maintaining a sound moral character is that it needs to be upheld at all times and at all costs with little room for error but a big space for learning. It is an age old adage that says – Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. You can do a hundred good actions and go unnoticed, but a single wrong action might attract the attention of many.
Navigating through sound judgements and staying true to the values that form your character becomes an exhausting task if not performed perfectly. It is like the precision oriented maneuvers of operating an airplane which seldom allows for an autopilot mode.
It must be borne in mind that true character cannot always be expressed through actions. One may smile and smile and yet be a villian. Adolf Hitler is considered to be one of the greatest leaders in world history. His oratory skills and charismatic personality attracted the crowds of Germany. But there still remain questions about his character. While hero worship was a common practice in the state, yet the kind of people we consider as heroes, must be pondered upon. Hitler’s policy of racial supremacy and equating one life with the other continues to draw disgust and flak to this day.
Chanakya’s Arthshashastra, the Bhagvad Gita as well as Manusmriti among other books give great importance to action or Karma. It is said that if you are called to sweep the streets, then sweep like Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music. There in lies your true dedication to your work which speaks volumes about your character without the use of words.
Our parents are the greatest architects of our lives. They have been the first agents of socialisation for us and taught us our first lessons in character building. From teaching magic words to imbibing social etiquettes, compassion, honesty and hard work, they shaped and moulded our character.
A great part of character is built through observation.
A child growing up in a household of domestic violence may decide to continue being a practitioner of the same when he grows up or he may totally give up the practice in his adult life. The sole responsibility of our actions lies on us.
The lessons taught to us by a teacher at school may fade away from memory but her actions linger on in our minds. The way she respected her colleagues as well as the non teaching staff equally and most affectionately resonates with many a student. It gets vividly etched in the heart of the sensitive child how her teacher greeted the gatekeeper everytime she entered or left the building.
These life lessons leave a lasting impact. There are philanthropists who open for public use, institutions of education and healthcare. There are people working diligently and away from the limelight for uplifting the vulnerable. There are still others, unrecognized who are creating a difference.
No deed of kindness ever goes waste. A seed sown, grows into a tree for some other to enjoy fruit. We have to become people of resilience and resolve. Actions truly speak louder than words.
For an amplified action, a small change is a must. The easy way is not always the right way. You have to bear the brunt of the brutal winds of change. Your strong footedness and self belief may be tested time and again, but how you come out of the shadows will determine your character’s strength.
It must be kept in mind to always spin into the fabric of your personality, the fibres of strong values in order to weave the situations of life into favourable outcomes. You are always under surveillance.
“There are little eyes upon you
and they are watching night and day,
There are little ears that quickly take in ,
every word you say,
You are setting an example,
in everything you do
For the little child who is waiting,
to grow up and be like you. “