|Sir Isaac Newton|
I am currently in an ethics and legal class for my master's degree (don't be jealous). While the text is quite awful to plow through, there was an assignment from the text which seemed to link to this topic (don't you hate it when school actually has real-world application?). We had to choose one of six ethical approaches to business. The text called the one I chose the least popular in modern times. Virtue theory. This approach talks about judging ethics by the character built rather than the action performed. There again, we are looking at the bigger picture. The motive for the action and the reaction after it is done. The book that immediately sprung to my mind was The Book of Virtues by William Bennett. Were you thinking the same thing? If not, don't worry. It's a hefty 821 pages of text and stories all centered around building virtue in various areas of life. The reason I thought about it comes from my childhood. As a kid, I read that book in its entirety. Twice. And then I reread my favorite stories as I felt the urge. I don't know why I was ever drawn to read that, but I do hope it had some influence on me.
I would side with the wise Donald Miller (seriously, read his blog) and say it is far more important and so much more difficult to build character over reputation. Your reputation is the actions you do that others witness. Your character stems from the internal workings surrounding that action or the actions of others. When something terrible happens in the world, do you immediately think of how that could affect you or how that might have been you? Or, do you think of the pain others are going through. Be honest, becase I have known people on both sides of those reactions. When you wrong someone, do you immediately swallow your pride and beg forgiveness? Or do you shy away, assumming that is the right thing to do?
Character. It's not easy. It's not always popular. No one will congratulate you. People might not even notice. It's rarely fun. But, in the end, it's all that really matters.