Personality and Character

Although character is related to personality, it is not the same thing:

Personality is easy to read, and we’re all experts at it. We judge people funny, extroverted, energetic, optimistic, confident—as well as overly serious, lazy, negative, and shy.

Character, on the other hand, takes far longer to puzzle out. It includes traits that reveal themselves only in specific—and often uncommon—circumstances, traits like honesty, virtue, and kindliness. Developing ones character is not an easy task, it’s a lifelong task. Character is not a destination that is reached; it’s a continuous process that must be perpetually worked on. Character building begins in our infancy, and continues until death.

Personality traits are determined largely by heredity and are mostly immutable. The arguably more important traits of character, on the other hand, are more malleable—though, we should note, not without great effort. Character traits, as opposed to personality traits, are based on beliefs (e.g., that honesty and treating others well is important—or not), and though beliefs can be changed, it’s far harder than most realize.

The problem in forming judgments about a person is that we all have an uncanny predilection for observing attractive personality traits and manufacturing out of them the presence of positive character traits (that is, if someone is outgoing, confident, and fun we’re more likely to think they’re honest, moral, and kind). But it’s far from clear that the one kind tracks with the other.

Summing-up: Personality is primarily inborn traits, while character consists of learned behaviour. Personality is what comes with you from birth; character is what you build all through your life. We have to separate these two concepts when we know someone.

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