What is character integrity? To properly define it, we have to start with character itself. Character is akin to personality. And most define personality as a person’s preferred style of relating. It’s the distinctive way one sees the world and operates in it. But character is not the same as personality. Rather, it’s the aspect of personality that reflects a person’s core operating principles or moral compass. And character integrity is the degree to which one remains committed to those principles and upright behavior.
See also: What Is a Character Disorder? (pts. 1 & 2)
Some folks say humans have always been a character-deficient lot. They say there’s nothing new under the sun. We’ve always had both nefarious characters and decent folks among us, they insist. And while there’s certainly truth to these notions, some things have definitely changed in recent decades. Two things in particular have changed dramatically in our age of permissiveness, entitlement, and relativism:
- The prevalence of significant character dysfunction. (i.e. the number of folks who can’t or won’t operate with integrity in their relationships)
- The degree to which various environments support, encourage, or even reward character dysfunction.
Of course, the realities mentioned above inherently influence each other.
In my workshops, I ask attendees to name any pressing social issue. Then we methodically examine the origins and hypothesized causes of problems. In so doing, we inevitably end up in the same place: character. Some things just are – and will always be – critical to humankind. Character is one of those things. It matters. It matters in everything. And, arguably, it matters more today than it ever has. That’s just one reason I wrote Character Disturbance.
Social Structures and Character
The laws and rules we devise and impose can’t save us from the character crisis. We already have millions of laws on the books. But decent folks don’t behave decently because of them. And the disturbed characters among us either ignore or defy them. So, merely devising more rules is futile. Just devoting energy and attention to how we respond to the problem can’t ultimately solve the problem. The proverbial “first step” to solving any problem is to correctly identify what the problem truly is, and then tackle it directly. And in our times, the main problem plaguing relationships and society at large, in a nutshell, is the demise of character integrity.
A healthy social climate can nurture character integrity. All healthy societies provide incentives for folks to cultivate character in themselves. Accordingly, decency will prevail again only when we collectively decide that it matters enough to insist upon it and to encourage and reinforce it.
The New “Character Matters” Program
Several years ago, the internet network UCY.TV invited me to fashion and host a weekly program on character. Character Matters was born of that request. And it quickly became one of the most popular programs on the network. But the network, while determined to never become a monetized or pay service, could not sustain itself as a free resource. So, sadly, not only is the network now defunct, but the Character Matters program archives – once easily accessed – have also recently been lost.
Because character matters so much, especially to me, I’ve been feverishly working on what will likely be my last book. And I’ve also been been re-tooling Character Matters. Beginning next week, you’ll be able to access podcasts of the program on both my YouTube channel and professional Facebook page. And the archives will be posted on the Character Matters page of this blog as well. Once a month, the program will be live streamed, so listeners will be able to call in and talk with me. But folks will also be able to have their questions and issues addressed by sending me a note using the Contact feature. A link to that feature will also be on the Character Matters page. (That page is undergoing reconstruction!)
Once sufficient programs are in the archives, the podcasts may also be placed on several other platforms. (Episode 1 is now available for viewing or listening.) Stay tuned for more information about this.
The new Character Matters program should provide an excellent opportunity for solidifying just the right content for my upcoming book.
Lobos Con Piel De Cordero
The Spanish language edition of In Sheep’s Clothing is ready for delivery from Amazon!
La edición en español de “In Sheep’s Clothing” ya está disponible!
libros de psicología, libros de psiquiatría, etc., DEBO recomendar la compra
de este libro antes que ningún otro. Va directo al grano y trata el tema con meridiana
claridad y sin rodeos. He comprado copias del libro para unos amigos y
nunca insistiré lo suficiente en recomendar su lectura.”
— E. Adams, comprador online
para entender y lidiar con los manipuladores, de George K. Simon, Jr.,
Ph.D., es un regalo divino para todo aquel que haya puesto en entredicho su
propia cordura en cualquier tipo de relación con una persona manipuladora y
— TheAeolianKid, comprador online
los manipuladores y cómo detectar e impedir sus ataques para poder controlar
el resultado. Este libro me ayudó con una persona a la que no me queda más
remedio que ver a diario. Al final de cada conversación “amistosa”, me sentía
deprimido o insultado y no podía entender cómo lograba que me sintiera así.
Este libro me ayudó a entender lo que realmente estaba pasando. Las pautas
del Dr. Simon pusieron a esta persona al descubierto, lo cual me permitió
tomar las riendas de la situación. Como esta persona sabe que ya no me puede
controlar, ahora tengo, no una relación perfecta, pero sí mejor que la que tenía
— Un lector de Chicago
que caracteriza la forma de actuar del manipulador. Hazte un favor y consigue
este libro ya.”
— Christy, Missouri
lo que debería ser. Ser capaz de identificar a esas personas en tu vida (tanto en
casa como en el trabajo) es muy importante y puede ser de valiosa ayuda para
1) no enloquecer, y 2) tomar medidas correctivas. El libro del Dr. Simon está
redactado con una claridad sorprendente. Si solo vas a leer un libro este
año, lee este.”
— JA008, comprador online
Me ha ayudado a redefinir mi manera de juzgar a las personas y a ser más
fuerte. Solía ser muy ingenuo e ignorar las intenciones ocultas de las personas,
y he aprendido muchísimo leyendo este libro.”
— S. Brescenti, comprador online
desconocimiento de su naturaleza. Simon nos muestra en qué consisten
realmente las interacciones aparentemente mundanas que nos dejan perplejos.
Según él, los maestros de la manipulación nos dejan agotados mientras
tratamos de transformarlos en la persona buena que queremos creer que son.
A esto yo le agregaría que los manipuladores son simplemente maldad pura,
porque el mal requiere mentir, manipular y debilitar la voluntad del otro mediante
el engaño. Simon te enseña cómo reconocer las señales y lo que puedes
hacer con ellas. Está en los buenos informar y protegerse de los manipuladores
de la sociedad. Este libro es el punto de partida necesario.”
— Kaye, un lector del estado de Nueva York
provocaciones de jefes prepotentes, vecinos antipáticos y odiosos compañeros
de trabajo, las resume y analiza, y te muestra las sencillas estrategias psicológicas
que utilizan para abusar de tu paciencia, de tu buena voluntad e incluso de
tu bolsillo. He recomendado este libro a todos los que conozco y compré
copias adicionales para mis hijos cuando se incorporaron al mundo del
trabajo. ¡Un libro muy recomendable!”
18 thoughts on “Cultivating and Nurturing Character Integrity”
I’m interested in this as long as it is free. With covid-19 my budget is limited strictly. Thanks for your assistance in this matter
My adult daughter contacted me today via email to tell me that my sister has stage 4 lung cancer and was on her way to the hospital and that my daughter’s not sure how much time she has left. She said she was letting me know in case I wanted closure.
We have not communicated for over a year. She said she was working on her bullying behavior, but just kept switching tactics. She’s entitled, disrespectful and cruel. I fully believe she keeps trying for image management. I’m her beard of sorts. She has tried to threaten me into responding, as well as other baits. This email about my sister could be just another one.
The patterns with both of these people is they call when they want/need something. They demand something and get angry when I do not jump and comply. They often try to break down my boundaries with various tactics (Fear/obligation/guilt). They play the victim and antagonize. They punish by making me the scapegoat. Then they shun me again (until they need/want something).
When I am in need, they do not help, they make excuses. In the case of my daughter, when I had lost the fourth member of my family and she came home to find me sitting vacant on the couch – just completely shut down, she commented that I was just sitting there. Then she got what she needed from my house and left. She was so cold about it. Later she said she was thinking “screw you”. She leaves when I need her most or makes it worse. She kicks me when I’m down.
It’s sad for me that when I get an email like this that I actually have to think about if this is more a baiting tactic than a real emergency. They will use any opportunity for their needs/wants or to see if they can provoke.
Actually, this sister who is unfortunately passing away, hadn’t spoken to me in years because I would not pay for her airfare. She had the mindset that if I could do it, I should do it.
She contacted me out of the blue after that to tell me our sister-in-law had passed away and that she wanted to let me know. I thanked her. I said I wasn’t sure I was going to go. She said she didn’t have the time but would call me back. Turns out she was calling because she needed a ride. Since I wouldn’t commit to going, she moved on to someone else. She never called me to let me know the time.
She is irresponsible but when I tried to help her by teaching her about finances or whatever, she wouldn’t apply it. I had learned to just tell her no when she asked for money because it just caused problems. She didn’t pay people back. If I gave her something, it was a gift. She abused kindness and generosity, and was not reciprocal. She got angry and made excuses if you expected reasonable behavior/reciprocity.
I end up feeling used and duped when I am compassionate with these folks. They play on that empathy and compassion. Now I feel angry, resentful and mistrustful around them.
Complicated grief. So much loss all around. Wanted so much to have healthy, loving, trustworthy relationships.
My daughter said at the end of her email that she loved me forever and hoped I’m doing well. That if I ever really needed her, she’s there, “even if we can’t handle talking day-to-day yet”.
I’m terrified of ever being in the position of really needing her.
She doesn’t get it or does and is still pretending not to understand. Her need for absolute control/domination/bullying/gaslighting and competing with me is not a minor, something that will just pass. I won’t just get over it, pretend it doesn’t exist.
I don’t know if it was right or wrong, but after letting her know that I would come if that is what my sister wanted. And if my niece needed me, that I’m there, I shared my thoughts. I told her I loved her too and said I appreciate her offer of being there if I really need her. But then wrote – “Honestly, with the way you were treating me, I felt like I was an obligation you resented and had contempt for. I didn’t feel valued, heard, considered or respected.
We deserve strong, healthy, truly loving relationships based on love, compassion, honesty, respect, trust and consideration”.
I thanked her again for letting me know, and let her know I appreciated it.
It’s been about 4 hours and I haven’t heard back. In my experience, it could be that that’s it – I’m done, the doors shut and I’ll be punished by ignoring me as well as not passing on the information, or worse, passing on purposely false information to make me look bad. That’s been one of her biggest weapons, smearing me.
How dare I express my hurt, frustration, pain etc..
However, if she is truly working on her attitudes and behaviors, perhaps she will respond at some point with a mature response.
Would love it to be the latter, but I’m learning to not set myself up for disappointment and to watch my expectations.
Thank you for reading. I needed to get this out. It’s such an impossible place to be and I feel very much alone.
Can you contact your sister directly? Make sure it’s legit news? If so, and then if you do go, do it for you and her. Have no expectations of things being different. Do it for your mind and your needs and gift her that last bit of kindness and generosity. If your niece is good, then be there for her as much as you can.
Perhaps you are not Christian, but I’d want to make sure the sister had confronted her evil and spent her last bit of time reading the Bible and getting ready to die. Might as well be prepared. Perhaps the shock of certain, suddenly approaching death will heighten her focus on getting right with God. One of the criminals being crucified along with Jesus, had kind of a last minute conversion. Perhaps I’m assuming too much that it was a last minute conversion, but I hope I have interpreted that correctly.
Thank you for sharing, Mindful.
I considered contacting my sister directly. It is legit that she has cancer, what I’m not sure is legit is that it is the end stage. In my experience, a tactic is to make things worse than they are as an excuse to make contact/get a response.
I don’t even know if my sister wants me there. For all I know, she doesn’t. She chose to push me away and has known for some time about her condition. I certainly don’t want to assume she wants me there.
My sister is very religious. Her church is one of her biggest enablers unfortunately.
Thank you, Rhythm and Blues
Mindful, I’ve read your post several times and this is where I’ve stopped in my tracks.
“I end up feeling used and duped when I am compassionate with these folks. They play on that empathy and compassion. Now I feel angry, resentful and mistrustful around them.”
This most certainly triggered and stirred up your emotions (again), so take care of yourself first in whatever way that means to you.
Without a doubt this is a tough situation for you. “Hold this in mind, especially if it’s something you weren’t taught to believe: The people who deserve your (personal) time are the ones who, consistently, behave as if they’re grateful to have it. “ (Carolyn Hax)
I definitely feel triggered. I’ve gotten to the point where I cannot even hear from my daughter without being triggered. I can’t begin to put into words just how awful she was. It was heart breaking and terrifying all at once. Then I felt rage and righteous indignation.
She just wrote back and again, she minimized what she’s done in the past and said she’s grown up since then and wants to work on the relationship, but only with a neutral third party. That’s she’s not interested in emailing back and forth until then. That if I’m not ready, she’s fine with that, no hurry.
It’s so interesting because she has taken things I said initially, that I wasn’t interested in going back and forth, that I needed to take time, and now, she is claiming them.
She made the demand of wanting a third party when I first said I needed a break to sort things out after her full on attack when she last visited. After I refused to give into the harassment, baiting, browbeating, quilting, etc., she had the nerve to say that she would not continue to have a relationship with me unless I committed to seeing her therapist with her. I said no, I wasn’t comfortable with that and asked he if she sure she wanted to make that threat. She thought about it and backed down. But here it is again. We’ve circled back. She wants things on her terms. She’s calling the shots. Now, I’m backed in a corner. I do understand that with most people this would be a no-brainer, yes, a neutral third party would be helpful, but with her, it would be a nightmare. She’s an expert at image management. She’s bright and beautiful. She plays the victim very well. When others are around she usually treats me very well for show, unless it is someone she knows also devalues me, then she doesn’t hide it. It private now, the mask is off.
As much as I want to believe she is sincere, experience has shown me otherwise. I believe she’s gaslighting again. She’s an expert.
Thanks so much, D. I’m going to hang on to that thought as if my life depends on it. In many ways it does.
Mindful, I feel for you I truly do. My H and I have a son very much like the daughter you describe.
We finally put a stop to entering any conversations with him because it wasn’t a conversation it became a verbal competition. Even the thought of sitting down with him would trigger us for days because we knew we’d be gaslighted. The projecting was beyond belief to witness. He’d describe his own character traits claiming they were his father’s. It would bring my H to tears. I could not stand it anymore. It’s pretty bad when parents have to give each other a pep talk about how we were going to converse with him. We’d get sucked in every time so he could get his feed of chaos and drama.
We don’t even talk about him anymore because we have found peace. When people ask about him we just say “we don’t see him as often as we’d like.” (smile, shrug as if to say, oh well you know how it is)
We have no regrets. We had to save ourselves or our marriage was doomed.
I have also been a victim of someone who can lay on the charm, and behind that facade is cruelty just waiting to pounce.
My H and I had to ask ourselves if we could live the rest of our lives not ever seeing our son again, and yes we can. He is someone we do not recognize, and he does not deserve to have us in his life. I realize to many it sounds harsh, and it is. But it is abuse plain and simple, and we are not going to devalue ourselves to have a relationship with anyone. Not ever.
Your choice not to engage with him is so understandable. It’s so nice that you and your husband have each other. It’s a built in reality check and buffer against the gaslighting. Sounds like even with that buffer, it was awful.
So glad that it has worked out well for you. It doesn’t sound harsh to me. I understand it. You get to the point where it makes absolutely no sense to put yourself through it. Especially when they do not appear to care or even try.
Thanks again, D. This is helping more than you can know.
I am very sorry to hear about all of this. I am a Christian and you are in no way responsible to try to make your sister right with God, thats Gods work. My ex narc. husband died of cancer, we had been divorced for years. I decided myself that I would go to visit him in hospice. I was there for him when his narc girlfriend was off gallivanting the weekend they gave him the morphine that would put him out of pain and shut his body down over the following week. I sat with him and witnessed to him, but I have no confidence about his automatic responses. But this was my decision, I did it knowing he wouldn’t do it for me if our places were exchanged. You have no obligation to see her, it is according to your own decision and what you think is best. Its terrible that you have to think about how bad is the cancer because you cannot trust either your daughter or sister. And you are wise not to trust because the best indicator of future behavior is the knowledge of past behavior. I’m so sorry this is happening and you so alone, I know its a common feeling when we go through such trying times.
Thank you. Yes, I don’t have that power or responsibility over her standing with God. I believe that’s between her and God. I understand your choice to see him knowing that he would not do it for you if the tables were turned. It reflects your values. That’s one of the many painful truths one comes to accept with these folks. For whatever reason, they won’t be there for you. Used to think they would eventually come around. I’ve let go of that fantasy (except perhaps with my daughter- the pull is still there despite my efforts to rip it out at the roots).
I know my sister would not do it for me, but I will go if it is something she wants. I’m going for me as well. I don’t trust my daughter as a messenger, and I’m not really comfortable putting her in that position anyway. It’s not her responsibility. So I called my sister’s phone a left a message stating my sadness about the news and saying I will come if that is what she wants. And that if she doesn’t want me there for whatever reason, I understand and respect that too. It’s mind blowing – that they will sink that low. That’s a great reminder about their behavior. As you likely know, one of the many tactics is trying to make it seem like it wasn’t that bad and/or that they’ve changed. She’s definitely been adding to and honing her tactics. When my PTSD alarm goes off, I know it’s time to get out. Thanks, Kat. I do wish I had a partner or loved one that I could lean on a little, talk things through with and a much needed reality-check when the gaslighting starts .
You all are wonderful and I’m so thankful for your support.
From my experience they don’t have a grip on reality, they are delusional. They are always trying to deceive others and I believe in doing that they deceive their selves. And so no change in their thinking. I am single as well, so I know what you mean. It really helps to talk things out. I have a sister I can talk to like that – I feel so fortunate for that. I have two children with my ex, he put our lives in danger many times, without a care in the world to him. I am sorry about your daughter, mine also has narc characteristics but I believe is low on the sliding scale of narcissism. I can still communicate with her although I have to ignore a lot of what she says to do it, its not intolerable and she does show some compassion.
That’s one of the things I struggle with. How much do they know what they are saying is not true – so just wanting to pull one over on you, and how much of it is delusion/projection. With most people, it’s not worth it to think about it, and I just move on. She does seem to think things are my problem. She’s admitted in the past that she doesn’t give it another thought after she’s attacked me and I’ve confronted her. She said she thinks it’s me, my problem. That’s why there is no way I’ll go to therapy with her. It’s refreshing that she’s open about it, but also troubling, ’cause she doesn’t recognize how dangerous she is. I doubt she would be that honest in therapy. They are dangerous. So glad you and your kids got away from your ex. My ex hasn’t changed either and unfortunately, she’s so much like him, it’s scary. My ex got really bad once I was pregnant.
That’s wonderful you and your children have each other and they were not severely damaged by him. I don’t know how old your daughter is, I’m glad she is low on the scale . My daughter was volatile and I got her into therapy and she was still aggressive, but also had lots of moments of what I took to be compassion. Around age 25 she seemed to slip more and more into narcissism. Don’t know if it was her new friends/city or lots of enablers, or what (she needs firm consequences). But it was a severe change. Way more entitled and outright aggressive and disrespectful. I’m quite sure her father and his new wife (who is worse than he is – he’s scared of her!) is still pulling strings by sowing division.
Did you children spend a lot of time with their father before he passed away?
I only share information that is otherwise private on the blog when both parties contact me directly through the contact feature on the contact page and specifically request what information they want shared and with whom
I just saw your post, you asked if my kids spent much time with their dad before he passed. Thats a very long story. The kids were 8 & 10 when I left, so they had his influence up until then. We moved across the country so they didn’t see him afterwards , until he moved here just before he got cancer. He was homeless at the time and I figure wanted to see if his kids would help him. After he stole a lot of our son’s personal property, he would not have anything to do with his Dad, it was pretty much the final straw for him. But my daughter always played him against me, siding with her Dad much of the time but I knew in her heart she was playing a game to hurt me. She did that a lot with various people. Believe me, they are not untainted in any way by their Dad, unfortunately they both have a lot of hurts and pain over it that I feel they are hurting themselves with and don’t know what to do with that pain and the confusion of what happened. My daughter did counseling for a while but I doubt she would be honest. My son is living with an alcoholic girlfriend and he has abused substances at times. Right now I think its just alcohol, but I grieve for them and keep praying. I wish they could get recovery and haver clearer minds as to how it has affected them and how they can recover. My daughter has never abused substances so I am happy for that, but she is very controlling and lies so that I never take what she says at face value, even though some of it is the truth. As for me, I came from an alcoholic home where I was pretty much neglected and so sought out what was familiar without realizing it. I had no idea what was happening, until after we got away from him, years afterwards. When I found out what narcissism was it was such an eye opener, finally the pieces all fit together. Stay strong, I know for myself I doubted my own eyes because I had been gaslighted without being aware of it.
If you and I changed the names, gender and a few details you and I could be writing the same story!!!
You and I do deserve love, honesty and “mindful” communication!
We may never get that from our siblings or some of our children, (I have 2) but we also don’t have to rely on them.
I’m not sure if this is allowed on this posting but if you ever want to email me I would love to correspond with you!
Our stories sound so similar and I’d love for you and I to get to know one another and encourage each other! God knows I could use that.
Let me know!
Great idea. I’m open to that if Dr. Simon will share the email address. As you say, it would be helpful for both of us to get to know and encourage each other. I could use it too – clearly! 🙂
Dr. Simon would you please help us with that?
Mindful you wrote:
“Complicated grief. So much loss all around. Wanted so much to have healthy, loving, trustworthy relationships.”
This is exactly how I feel when I look at certain members of our family. I have relationships with people who have no agenda, and when I’m around them I am so grateful to have them as my friends. We share laughs and hardships but never exhibiting covert cruelness to divide and conquer, no comments that slam your mind into self doubt, just simple kinship. There are good people out there.
I hope you keep us updated on how this is going for you.
Hmm. I’m sorry you lost your archive for your prior Character Matters work, Dr. Simon.
I’ve been itching for a Spanish language version of your work for a while now, and have considered offering my services as a translator. Spanish is my mother tongue, and I believe, with matters close to the heart, it’s often best to go with that language when reading this kind of work. I hope, and don’t doubt, that you will get positive reviews from native Spanish speakers rather than just have to display trsnslations from English as above!