Jonathan Hall

Carving Out Character

Jonathan Hall
Carving Out Character

Your character is the sum total of virtues in action. However, It isn't the definition of character that is necessarily important, since there is a mosaic of ways to define it.  Here, we are concerned with how to achieve a noble character -- albeit, a fully consummated version of yourself. It is the action connotation of the word in it's Greek etymology that reveals fundamental utility. The word "character" means "chisel".  If you chisel away at something it takes time, energy, patience and a lot of really hard work. Take for example, sculpting a statue out of stone. The end result is not accomplished by using a sledge hammer with minimal  blunt force swings. It is done by massaging small sections at a time with carefully placed strokes until the final masterpiece is created.

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it. It is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” - Michelangelo

What matters more than the definition or execution of character development is the ability to have a vision and the desire to take action. We all have the gift of adaptability and posses the power to achieve anything we set our sights on.  The first step is the most the critical; the ability to win in your mind. You have to have a clear vision of what you want to be and know that you have the capacity to achieve it. The famous Italian sculptor, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, referring to his marble statue of David, famously said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." What was once a large scrap of the earth became a synthesized thing of beauty because of vision and the will for action. Moreover, arguably one of the most infamous statues of all-time, was not achieved through slipshod whacks with large, dense hammer. Most of the work was done with carefully and deliberately placed chiseled strokes.

"Defining and refining your character is not an option. It is not an elective, rather a requirement in the quest for a degree in life." - A Defined Life

Just like the statue of David existed in the stone before being carved out, greatness lies within you. A solid character already exists necessarily, but discovery is contingent upon your willingness to chisel away; you must chisel away. Put more bluntly, defining and refining your character is not an option. It is not an elective, rather a requirement in the quest for a degree in life. No decision is a decision. Your character will be molded, either through your own volition or will develop as a result of cultural influences and deceptions.

"The vacancy of intentionality is filled with the pollution of manipulation." - A Defined Life

To what extent does society have a say in what you become? Take for example a comparative analysis of two countries and their participation in organ donations. Belgium and the Netherlands - both are geographically and culturally similar, but with large disparities in organ donors. In Belgium, 98% of licensed drivers are organ donors compared to paltry 27.5% in the Netherlands (source: danariely.com). Does this mean the Belgians are innately more altruistic than the Dutch? Or those in the Netherlands are cheap ambassadors of the sanctity of life? No not at all. In fact this discrepancy has nothing to do with the disposition of the general populous at all. Rather, it reveals how people are influenced and ultimately easily manipulated. The linchpin that holds the two together in conclusive discomfort is in the license application at their respective DMV's. In the Netherlands, there is an "opt-in" box (check here if you want to participate in the organ donation program). In Belgium, there is an "opt-out" box (check here if you do not want to participate in the organ donation program). In both cases, most people commit the default action and do not check the box.

Just as easy as it is to control people's decisions on organ donating, it is easy to influence people's character development as well. You must be vigilant about creating your character; the vacancy of intentionality is filled with the pollution of manipulation. If you are not possessive of sculpting your own life, you are at risk of running on an endless treadmill of mediocrity by subjecting yourself to a whimsical, laissez-fair approach to impressionability.

The path to character actualization is never ending. There is no finish line. It is a lifetime of effort that requires vision and hard work. As you progress on the upward trajectory of a meaningful life, there will be obstacles along the way. Don't be discouraged.  Just like cracking the digits of a combination lock, you could be just one more big idea away from breaking free and opening the "game of life" wide open. Reflect daily on the fact that you're not where you were, you're not where you want to be, but you're heading in the right direction, one chiseled stroke at a time.