Forging good character is largely a matter of overcoming our innate early narcissism and developing a caring, responsible relationship with others and the world around us. As young children we are inherently self-focused and believe everything in the world exists to meet our needs. And that is good and necessary for us in our infancy because our very survival can depend on it. One of the principal challenges of effective socialization is to guide a child beyond their primitive view of themselves and the world around them. Eventually, we must all be able to see ourselves as a part of a much bigger reality and become mindful of the impact we might have on others and the world around us. But there are many factors that can impede the learning of important life lessons necessary to bring us to this broader, healthier view. Sometimes, a child’s caregivers have such an excessive, unhealthy emotional neediness that they attempt to satisfy their own needs through their children. As a result, this caregiver might dote on the child too intensely and/or too often, and in so doing can reinforce the notion that the child is indeed the very center of things. Other times, caregivers can be too absent a presence in their children’s lives and/or too neglectful. This leaves the child overly “hungry” for attention and recognition as well as overly focused on their needs. Then, of course, some children seem to have certain in-born tendencies that complicate the character development process. Some may naturally tend to be empathetic or have a greater sensitivity to the suffering of other people while others may tend to be less sensitive, more uncaringly self-advancing, even daredevilish. Our natural inclinations and our experiences both influence the way we eventually come to see ourselves and our relationship to the world.
It was once widely believed that children naturally move toward positive growth unless they experience trauma of some type. But we now know that what doesn’t happen in the way of learning certain crucial life lessons is just as important to good character development as the tragic events that might beset a person and arrest or impede their character formation. And that’s what prompted me to catalog what my experience has taught me are the 10 essential “commandments” of good character development. Since first introducing them in my book Character Disturbance, I’ve refined both the content of these commandments and the explanations of their meaning. And over the course of the next several weeks, I’ll be discussing each of them once again and their pivotal role in character formation as well as providing some illustative examples. I consider these commandments as timely and appropriate for adults who’ve come to recognize their character development arrests and their need for further character growth as they are for youngsters still in their formative years. They are as follows:
The “10 Commandments”
- You are not the center of the universe. Be mindful of how you, your urges and desires, and most especially your behavior impact everyone and everything else that exists.
- You are neither an insignificant speck nor are you so precious or essential to the universe that it simply cannot do without you. Keep a balanced perspective on your sense of worth.
- Strive to earn respect and show gratitude. Always remember, you are not really entitled to anything.
- Have the utmost reverence for the truth. Be ever mindful of humankind’s incredible capacity to deceive, including oneself. Honestly and humbly acknowledge and reckon with your mistakes.
- Master your appetites and aversions.
- Think before you act. Be the master of your impulses.
- Strive to develop solidity, strength, and rightness of purpose, with regard to your will.
- Anger and aggressive behavior are not inherently evil. But fight only when necessary and fight fairly. Above all, fight constructively and with as much care as possible to make things better while respecting the rights, needs, and boundaries of self and others.
- Treat those you encounter with civility and generosity.
- To the best of your ability, be of sincere heart and purpose.
Two Important Helps to Character Development
Raising children to be mature, responsible adults is among life’s most challenging enterprises. And years of research and clinical experience has shown that for kids to develop both strength and integrity of character, two factors are of key importance: affection and approval. The manner in which children experience these two things during their upbringing can have a deep and lasting impact not only on their moral development but also on how well-adjusted and successful they’re likely to be in life.
Mental health professionals have long known that the most successful and well-adjusted adults come from homes in which love and affection were experienced both liberally and unconditionally whereas parental approval was bestowed quite conditionally. And when it comes to that conditional approval, it’s important that it’s specifically linked to behavior. Basically, a child has to get these messages loudly and clearly from their caretakers: “I love you thoroughly and no matter what, but when it comes to what you do, some things are simply not okay.” In the concluding articles of the current series, I’ll be expanding on this all-important principle (for more on this topic see the article: Affection and Approval: Two Things that Matter for Character) and how it impacts the teaching and learning of the “10 commandments” of good character development.
Once again, my sincerest thanks to all who have purchased or recommended How Did We End Up Here?, my latest book with Dr. Armistead.
My regular Sunday evening broadcast (7 pm EDT, 6 pm CDT, 5 pm MDT, 4 pm PDT), Character Matters, will be a live broadcast, so I can take your phone calls.
27 thoughts on “Nurturing Good Character: The “10 Commandments””
Speaking for myself, the 10 Commandments of How to Nurture Good Character is a great model to follow second to Gods Commandments. The more we adhere to the commandments the more they become part of our being and therefore our lives are changed for the better.
We set the stage so to speak for others in our lives by the examples our character exudes.
Forever changing and growing and in this choice of relinquishing our wills to goodness and decency the Commandments command we acquire an ethics and standard of character that will last a lifetime.
By the grace of God I pray I will be able to be the upstanding individual these commandments will development me into. Forever, growing in peace and enjoying the rewards of living the commands.
Blessings to all
Those 10 Commandments are all attainable, with a conscious effort. I’m going to print out this article and keep it posted as a reminder of what to strive for to build my character. With the divorce turmoil I’m going through, striving for these characteristics will help me not fall and lose my good self while dealing with an aggressive CDN.
Number Six, “Think before you act. Be the master of your impulses.” is a huge problem with me and will greatly benefit myself and others if I could check my impulsiveness.
Thanks you for the great article and again for all you’ve done to help me.
How does someone become a Covert-Aggressor? and can one change to not being a covert-aggressor?
Why do you ask?
It seems like my wife did not at first display any of these tactics but by the time of our divorce she did and is even more set in her ways now 30 years later. I have to deal with her because of the kids and grandkids, so I wonder if anything can be done to help her over come the problem.
It would be hard for me to comment without knowing more of the “tactics” you are talking about. I know this must be very difficult to come to a website for answers, but all of here had to do it. If you could go into a little more detail it would be helpful for me to give you a more informed response. I am sure others will chime in too.
I would suggest reading Dr. Simons books and reading as much on the blog as possible. I will be looking for your post.
Allen, I believe these characteristics get worse as the CD’s age. I was married for 41 years and the last few years have been unbearable – I had to move out and the divorce is almost final. I am of the firm belief that our characteristics get even stronger as we age. If it’s in our hearts that we are sweet and kind, as we age we become even sweeter and even more kind. If in our hearts we are narcissist – we become even more narcissistic and self absorbed.
I don’t think the CDs actually change as they age I just believe the façade begins to slip and they can’t put at the front anymore. Because to a narcissist the end of life is the end of life. I think they become bitter because things have not worked out the way they want them to and they feel they are running out of time.
I have come to the conclusion that I am for the first time after 40 years seeing the true person That my husband is. He just can’t put up the false face any longer, plus I have caught on to the subtle games. That makes them mad.
No. I don’t think they can change. I’m sorry that’s probably not what you wanted to hear and it’s not what I wanted to hear when I moved out after 40 years. But I don’t believe they can change.
You sound as clear as a bell, no longer confused.
I agree with everything you’ve said. I don’t believe they can change their character. It’s too deep rooted. They’d have to want to change, then they’d have to find a good counselor and work hard to change. I think they like themselves just fine. They have rotten cores.
I take it your ex-wife is now 60+. At this age, only help you can do is by getting out of her way, and reducing contact to bare minimum. If you want to be kind to her, then include her in your daily prayers, nothing more.
Unfortunately, you need to deal with her due to kids & grandkids, so next best option is to set boundaries. What you will accept as reasonable behavior. What will constitute unacceptable behavior. And what will be consequences, if behavior is not acceptable. There are few goods books on dealing with problem characters. In my opinion, best one is In Sheeps Clothing by Dr. Simon, then Who is Pulling Your Strings by Braiker.
Can anything be done or is it entirely hopeless…..
Unless you can provide more information this can be difficult to answer. it depends on how pathological their CD is. There are many things that can be contributing factor to her behavior. I believe there may be help for individuals but it is still a choice they will ultimately make. Like I said it is to difficult to comment without specifics.
When I first became aware something was wrong and I read about Charactered Disordered individuals I had know idea I had only uncovered the tip of the iceberg. The deeper I delved the worse it got. I hope this isn’t your case, this is why It isn’t that easy to make a comment on you situation. I hope we can help.
“Can anything be done or is it entirely hopeless…”
It is not entirely hopeless. It depends on the degree of problem.
But, to have any hope even in milder case, one must good degree of self-awareness, fairness and assertiveness, and at the same time some fair knowledge of how some selfish people tend to behave in underhanded manner.
Watch this about 300 times and you might FIND THE ANSWER ?
Yes, everyone this you tube says it all, would encourage you to watch it and also a great book Dark Souls.
Thanks, Joey we must never forget this. I will have to watch all the other You Tubes in this series.
Again, thanks for sharing and bringing this great resource to our attention.
I just watched the clip on “How To Outsmart The Narcissist The Right Way”. It was very deep and interesting and I learned much from it. You don’t ever “outsmart” a narcissist. From the way I understood it, being that the narcissists prey on your weak, soft spot, you draw the attention of that weakness inward and work it out to the point it’s no a longer a weakness, and therefore the narcissist who is trying his/her best to destroy and hurt you in “an Angel is Disguise”, bringing that hurt soul to the surface so that you are aware and can work it out. That is what I gathered from the article.
I’d welcome anyone’s thoughts on this.
Thanks for your responses. They give me some idea of what to expect and to do….
I would not expect change from her. She thinks she’s just fine. You can change the way in which you interact with her though to hopefully give you some peace. Keep reading and keep posting. Most of us here are dealing is disordered characters of varying degrees. I’m in process of divorcing mine.
You have gotten a lot of good advise from individuals that have lived the nightmare of being involved with a CD. Andy, suggested the book
“Whose Pulling Your Strings.” For anyone that hasn’t read this book I would suggest doing so. It is a real eye opener.
Joey, posted a link to a interview between Dr. Simon and Sara Strudwick author of “Dark Souls.” This is another must great read.
Allen, I hope you keep posting, you will find support and validation to the crazy making the CD is capable of. In essence, they will turn everything around and make you out to be the guilty party in need of help. Anytime you need clarification please throw it out here for input. You will find that the shoe fits the “others” foot not yours.
A real turning point for the masks to drop in dealing with the CD in my life is when I started saying “NO.” Read the archives and as much as you can on the subject of narcissism and CD. If you need to be directed to resources the posters here are more than willing to help.
Again, you are so welcomed to post and all will gladly help. Dr. Simons books are a must but you may not want those lying around. Many times and I would be careful in telling or confronting the CD with the knowledge you have gleaned. Many times all you do is teach them to be more cunning in their tactics and if you are planning on leaving you will set them up in a position they can use to their benefit.
Allen, I have been hesitant to comment as you haven’t said much of what is taking place unless I missed a post in-between. At one point Andy posted a conversation between the CD he is dealing with. Andy wanted to see if others here could make sense of it. The convo was complete crazy making, the only sense it made to anyone was the crazy makers themselves.
I agree with the other posters, especially when it is mentioned that you cannot change them. That is the way they are and until they choose to change they will remain the same and expect everyone to change for them. Kinda like the joke about how many narcissists does it take to change a light bulb. Only one, the narcissist is the bulb and the world revolves around them….I just made that up. LOL.
Not to make your situation light hearted but sometimes hearing painful information can be helped by a bit of levity.
I can relate. I worked for a very long time to change my now divorced ex husband and he fought me tooth and nail. Just would not give up his destructive all about him stance that caused a great deal of career and personal relationship horrors. Just because he wanted and needed to be the end all of everything. It just doesn’t work in the democratic world. I suspect, no, I know he would do quite well in a totalitarian regime until he began wanting to be the most powerful despot. The despot would have got rid of him in a nano second.
How these people survive is beyond me. I do believe that as they age it just gets harder to deal with the unending fights they find themselves in and the forever battle for one upmanship. Bitter and more bitter they just lose any bit of humanity they may have had at an earlier age.
It really is true the old maxim of “whatever you are you will be more of when you are old.” I hate to say it and it took years for me to finally accept such a clear answer to lean on but it is true…so stop looking to change her. Change yourself and help to instill a strong sense of right and wrong (see the 10 Commandments of People of Integrity)in both yourself and your children and grandchildren so this stops with her.
That, to my mind, is what would be best for the situation. I have no children with the ex so I have that not to worry about. I am sorry that this has fallen to your shoulders but there it is. We are all given certain people to help us grow even if that growth comes at a very painful price.
Glad to hear from you and hope you and your little critters are well. I wholeheartedly agree with your post, so very pointedly and well said.
Hugs and Blessings
the focus on this who thing seems to be only on the victims of the covert aggressors, etc., But is anything being done about the covert-aggressors? Is the only thing that matters is the victims?
Dr. Simon created and designated his site for the victims of the CD and he monitors his blog regularly to make sure of that. Many of us have managed to get out of the hell holes created by these “Monsters” by literally our last breath. Many of the Charactered Disordered are Narcissists, Sociopaths and Psychopaths. If you read the blog you will read story after story by individuals crying for help and validation.
I am sure their are blogs out there for the CDNSP to regurgitate on and plan there next devious act against humanity. They are responsible for their actions as we are for ours. Many of them need to take ownership of their conduct instead of putting the onus on another.
Have you read Dr. Simons books? If not I would suggest you do. His most recent being “How Did We End Up Here.” I think the focus is what pain, agony, torment, torture, brainwashing, gas lighting, verbal and physical abuse, slander, cheating, mind —-ing, to name a few tactical actions used by these disordered individuals. Not to mention the broken homes, broken bones, broken souls and deaths these monsters are responsible for to include destroying their own offspring and the list goes on and on.
Yes, After the above, How do we as victims take back our lives and heal, to go on with our lives and find peace and happiness instead of constant crazy making triangulation. We all try to uplift each other to get perhaps, through another day, and sometimes just for a few minutes. We validate the truth of what we hear from the others and tell it like it is.
It is so very painful and shocking to realize the lies our lives have been involved in, to be duped an think we believed we were loved. In order to become whole again we must accept the truth in order to heal. We are forever changed by the experience.
If there were something I could had done or still could do I would. The only thing you can do is take care of yourself, get professional care if need be, or perhaps, share the conduct of CD you are dealing with and confide in a well balanced friend to include a glut of other resources for yourself.
I said before I was hesitant to comment without more info. It seems you are looking for an answer of some sort for a problematic issue. I was repeatedly told “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.” This is true of the charactered disordered.
They refuse to look inward………
Its everyone else but them……..
They are always right and everyone else is wrong………..
They are selfish, conceited, lovers of themselves, life evolves around them….
And the list goes on and on…………………………..
The only people we can change is ourselves, we can’t do the work for another. I would suggest you read and read as much as you can on the subject and be honest with yourself. It is not a pretty picture when one discovers they are only viewing the tip of the iceberg. Beware, if you are dealing with one of these CD individuals you don’t give them ammo to use against you. If your nor careful your ship make sink and you may not be prepared with a preserver and paddle.
The CD once discovered will do everything to protect themselves. Remember, this too, if they think you are onto them they may LURE you in long enough to make things extremely difficult if you are thinking of breaking free. They are capable of anything.
You and only you can determine what you can and will tolerate in your relationship. I can tell you if you are linked by the ring finger with one of the CD it only will get worse and worse. The character disordered are LIFE SUCKERS and I would take my freedom any day, rather than the empty pain and misery the CD cause and believe me they always require a doormat to step on, a punching bag to beat on and a scapegoat to vomit their venonous poison on to.
Only you can determine your destiny and what value you place on the integrity of your life. I am cautioning you to be extremely, wary until you are certain of your circumstances. These are individuals depending on the continuum of their disorder are capable of leaving a disastrous path of destruction. The CD are notorious for causing and acerbating health issues such as severe stress, including heart, blood pressure and any other heath issues.
Please do not take this as curt but as constructive information to be used or dismissed. I hope you keep posting and perhaps, the longer you post and the more you share the clearer your situation will become. We have several well informed males that regularly respond. I hope and pray we are wrong for your sake but the intuition of others are already feeling the ominous distress signals.
When someone is employing a covert tactic against you or someone the someone isn’t aware – covert – means clandestine, under cover. What kind of person what kind of character person are we dealing with???????
What can we do for this person, NOTHING they are charactered disordered and the question of the hour is how? disordered are they??????
When on resorts to and deploys covert methods they are quite Disordered, their minds are devious to stoop to these types of behaviors. What do you think????
When one has lived with the CD for a length of time ones whole perception of reality is skewed. One can actually be made to think they are the crazy disordered one when it in fact is the other. Try to stand on the outside and observe realistically what is going on. Let your gut feelings lead you and apprise the situation then, see what you come up with, not what you want to see but what you truly see.
Look for Truth it will set you free
As a victim, i am quite pleased to find all this out and learn from it. but I also am not so self-absorbed that I only consider my own plight. I know full well how harmful these people can be and that I personally cannot change them. But I wonder if anyone is having any success and how.
I recall an article of Dr Simon’s which spoke of change but first having to have humility. I’ll look through and see if I can find it and get back with you.
The Grateful Character Feels Onliged is a good article. Hope this helps to answer your question.
I am thinking about ” But I wonder if anyone is having success and how? ” I started to think about all the sadness these CD individuals have caused me and others. They rage with anger at the innocent, they terrorize, beat on, cheat on, treat us like a filthy rag, give one STD’s, ruin lives, steal, harass, threaten, and even kill others and I still have hopes of a they will see the light. I think I may need my head examined.
The best thing I did was take back my life, I have met several individuals and they are angels to the ones I left. Pray for their souls and redemption but to be free is so exhilarating, to grow as I never dreamed to do the things I want. To feel truth, live truth, know truth.
I am so glad I stumbled and fell, getting the glimpse behind the mask that would send me on a journey of learning about narcissism, and the finality of accepting the truth that one can be deceived and lied to by someone we loved and the realization we never truly knew them. The warning signs and flags were there all along.
Its going on five years and I still have to deal with insanity, at least I know what I am dealing with. I stand back, and watch and marvel that I stayed so long and was hoodwinked. I realize all the work I need to become whole and it is great to be free and me.
Allen I hope we can help you through this because in doing so you help us to become stronger. I am dealing with making some difficult decisions that may prove to put me in a dangerous situation. I am thinking very clearly and know in my heart what I must do. Its just that we must never underestimate the evil intent the CD is capable of carrying out and at the same time stay strong. After a time one does become tired of what one would identify as adults raging and ranting like two year old toddle time brats.