About Character

What Is Character?

Character is the inward motivation to do what is right according to the highest standards of behavior in every situation. Character consists of the stable and distinctive qualities built into an individual’s life that determine his or her responses, regardless of the circumstances. Character is the wise response to the pressure of a difficult situation and what we do when we think that no one is watching. It is the predictor of good behavior.

Character Qualities

The Greek word for character is charakter. It is translated in Scripture as the “express image.” According to The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament, the word “originally denoted an engraver or engraving tool. Later it meant the impression itself, usually something engraved, cut in, or stamped, a character, letter, mark, [or] sign. This impression with its particular features was considered as the exact representation of the object whose image it bore.” In Hebrews 1:3, Christ is referred to as the “express image” of God; He fully expressed the character of God through His life.

One of God’s primary goals for believers is to transform them into the image of His Son so that they may be a reflection of the character of Christ. We can take comfort in this purpose when we experience difficulties because “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28

Operational Definitions of 49 Character Qualities

Alertness vs. Unawareness

Being aware of that which is taking place around me so I can have the right response to it. Mark 14:39

Initiative vs. Unresponsiveness

Recognizing and doing what needs to be done before I am asked to do it. Romans 12:21

Attentiveness vs. Unconcern

Showing the worth of a person by giving undivided attention to his words and emotions. Hebrews 2:1

Joyfulness vs. Self-pity

The spontaneous enthusiasm of my spirit when my soul is in fellowship with the Lord. Psalm 16:11

Availability vs. Self-centeredness

Making my own schedule and priorities secondary to the wishes of those I am serving. Phillippians 2:20-21

Justice vs. Fairness

Carrying out wise judgments based on the laws and character of God. Micah 6:8

Boldness vs. Fearfulness

Confidence that what I have to say or do is true and right and just in the sight of God. Acts 4:29

Love vs. Selfishness

Giving to others’ basic needs without having gain as my motive personal reward. I Corinthians 13:3

Cautiousness vs. Rashness

Knowing how important right timing is in accomplishing right actions. Proverbs 19:2

Loyalty vs. Unfaithfulness

Using difficult times to demonstrate my commitment to God and to those whom He has called me to serve. John 15:13

Compassion vs. Indifference

Investing whatever is necessary to heal the hurts of others. I John 3:17

Meekness vs. Anger

Yielding my personal rights and expectations to God. Psalm 62:5

Contentment vs. Covetousness

Realizing that God has provided everything I need for my present happiness. I Timothy 6:8

Obedience vs. Willfulness

Freedom to be creative under the protection of divinely appointed authority. II Corinthians 10:5

Creativity vs. Underachievement

Approaching a need, a task, an idea from a new perspective. Romans 12:2

Orderliness vs. Disorganization

Preparing myself and my surroundings so I will achieve the greatest. efficiency I Corinthians 14:40

Decisiveness vs. Double-mindedness

The ability to finalize difficult decisions based on the will and ways of God. James 1:5

Patience vs. Restlessness

Accepting a difficult situation from God without giving Him a deadline to remove it. Romans 5:3-4

Deference vs. Rudeness

Limiting my freedom in order not offend the tastes of those whom God has called me to serve. Romans 14:21

Persuasiveness vs. Contentiousness

Guiding vital truths around another’s mental roadblocks. II Timothy 2:24

Dependability vs. Inconsistency

Fulfilling what I consented to do even if it means unexpected sacrifice. Psalm 15:1-4

Punctuality vs. Tardiness

Showing high esteem for other people and their time. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Determination vs. Faintheartedness

Purposing to accomplish God’s goals in God’s time regardless of the opposition. II Timothy 4:7-8

Resourcefulness vs.Wastefulness

Wise use of that which others would normally overlook or discard. Luke 16:10

Diligence vs. Slothfulness

Visualizing each task as a special assignment from the Lord and using all my energies to accomplish it. Colossians 3:23-24

Responsibility vs. Unreliability

Knowing and doing what both God and others are expecting from me. Romans 14:12

Discernment vs. Judgment

The God-given ability to understand why things happen. I Samuel 16:7

Reverence vs. Disrespect

Awareness of how God is working through the people and events in my life to produce the character of Christ in me. Proverbs 23:17-18

Discretion vs. Simplemindedness

The ability to avoid words, actions, and attitudes which could result in undesirable consequences. Proverbs 22:3

Security vs. Anxiety

Structuring my life around that which is eternal and cannot be destroyed or taken away. John 6:27

Endurance vs. Giving up

The inward strength to withstand stress to accomplish God’s best. Galatians 6:9

Self-Control vs. Self-indulgence

Instant obedience to the initial promptings of God’s Spirit. Galatians 5:24-25

Enthusiasm vs. Apathy

Expressing with my soul the joy of my spirit. I Thessalonians 5:16-19

Sensitivity vs. Callousness

Exercising my senses so I can perceive the true spirit and emotions of those around me. Romans 12:15

Faith vs. Presumption

Visualizing what God intends to do in a given situation and acting in harmony with it. Hebrews 11:1

Sincerity vs. Hypocrisy

Eagerness to do what is right with transparent motives. I Peter 1:22

Flexibility vs. Resistance

Not setting my affections on ideas or plans which could be changed by God or others. Colossians 3:2

Thoroughness vs. Incompleteness

Knowing what factors will diminish the effectiveness of my work or words if neglected. Proverbs 18:15

Forgiveness vs. Rejection

Clearing the record of those who have wronged me and allowing God to love them through me. Ephesians 4:32

Thriftiness vs. Extravagance

Not letting myself or others spend that which is not necessary. Luke 16:11

Generosity vs. Stinginess

Realizing that all I have belongs to God and using it for His purposes. II Corinthians 9:6

Tolerance vs. Prejudice

Acceptance of others as unique expressions of specific character qualities in varying degrees of maturity. Philippians 2:2

Gentleness vs. Harshness

Showing personal care and concern in meeting the need of others. I Thessalonians 2:7-9

Truthfulness vs. Deception

Earning future trust by accurately reporting past facts. Ephesians 4:25

Gratefulness vs. Unthankfulness

Making known to God and others in what ways they have benefited my life. I Corinthians 4:7

Virtue vs. Impurity

The moral excellence and purity of spirit that radiate from my life as I obey God’s Word. II Peter 1:3

Hospitality vs. Loneliness

Cheerfully sharing food, shelter, and spiritual refreshment with those whom God brings into my life. Hebrews 13:2

Wisdom vs. Natural Inclinations

Seeing and responding to life’s situations from God’s frame of reference. Proverbs 9:10

Humility vs. Pride

Recognizing that it is actually God and others who are responsible for the achievements in my life. James 4:6

Adapted from Institute in Basic Life Principles, Inc. (IBLP), "Rebuilder’s Guide", p. 170-175

Grouped Character Qualities

Often, failures in our character manifest themselves in our lives in negative ways. If you are struggling in a particular area, identify it in the table below and study the character qualities that help to eliminate that negativity. Each character quality has a link to a downloadable PDF study. It is recommended that you do the study of each character quality for a week, journaling your thoughts and experiences.

* Study guides available from the Institute in Basic Life Principles

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