August 1

Can We Think of Character as a Muscle? | WT #62


A while back, I found myself in an engaging family discussion about the nature of character. One of my children mentioned the term “bad character” and it got me thinking.

I found myself at odds with this phrase. From my perspective, the notion of “bad” character seems incorrect because, inherently, I believe character signifies something positive. After all, don’t we all hold an intrinsic goodness?

So, what exactly does character mean? I like to think of it as a muscle, where the fibers are virtues. To build these muscle fibers, you need to work on your virtues, which in turn, strengthens your character, akin to muscles.

It brings us to an interesting debate: can character truly be good or bad? If we draw parallels with muscles, does the concept of a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ muscle make sense? Not really, right? However, if we think about muscles being strong or weak, things seem a bit clearer.

So, when people speak of “bad” character, could they be pointing to a character that lacks strength, making it harder to resist poor decisions? If that’s the case, then it’s not about having a bad character but rather a deficiency of it.

What are your thoughts? Does envisioning character as a muscle help shape our understanding and provoke a more thoughtful conversation about character development?

About the author 

Darren Smith

Darren Smith is Co-Founder of the Authentic Leadership Institute. He is a native Texan and a graduate of Dallas Jesuit and Texas A&M University. Over the past 25 years, Darren has visited 35 countries and led 100 strategy programs. He and his wife have five children.



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