Cultivating character is what the human socialization process is all about. And, as I’ve asserted in all my books and several articles, this process is inherently long and arduous. (See, for example: Socialization is a Process.) But it’s an even more challenging process in a cultural climate like that of the past several decades.
Serious disturbances of character were once commonplace only in isolated cultural circles. Indulged, idolized, pampered folks, like Hollywood “stars,” for example, were notorious for flouting conventions that most folks revered. Sadly, however, serious character disturbances have become so “normalized” that we barely notice them. And sometimes, even if we do notice them, we give them a pass. So, the character crisis we face today was truly inevitable. And the lack of outrage over what’s happened, why it happened, and how it happened, helped “enable” it to happen.
A Painstaking But Most Noble Process
Sound socialization takes longer for humans than for any other species. It takes many hours a day, for many days, over many years to accomplish the task. And cultivating character is more than just going through the process. What we learn, how we learn it, and what we take from what we learn and make a part of ourselves matters, too. In fact, it matters a lot.
Cultivating character is the most noble endeavor there is. But there are no shortcuts. Of course, formators and students alike try to take shortcuts. And that’s partly how we got to where we are now. Many haracter-arrested folks learned some lessons. Perhaps they even took some to heart. But they either resisted or failed to embrace other equally important ones. And that made all the difference.
One Step at a Time
Cultivating character is a step-by-step process. And each crucial lesson involves the others to some degree. But it’s not enough to merely understand any of the lessons. You have to take them to heart – to embrace them fully and deeply. And you have to make the principles the lessons are meant to teach your own. And, sadly, as I’ve mentioned before, some personalities (e.g., the “aggressive personalities“) are predisposed to resist the entire process.
I first introduced the principles crucial to cultivating character in Character Disturbance. I called them the “10 Commandments” of character. And ever since I first wrote about them folks have written me asking that I expand on the subject. That’s one reason I wrote Essentials for the Journey. But I’ve mainly written it because of the moral imperative we have to reverse the growth of character dysfunction. Make no mistake, we have the power to turn things around. But it will take all of us – each of us. And slowly, incrementally, just as the character crisis came upon us, it will abate. It has to. Our future, our welfare, even our very existence, largely depends on it.
I talk about the first steps in the journey toward sound character on this week’s Character Matters podcast.