A Working Definition of Character

The new Police Dynamics blog has already generated some interest after only 24 hours! Thanks to those of you who have taken the time to subscribe and to comment.

One of the topics I see talked about a lot in the blogosphere is the definition of character. We can go to the dictionary but a good working definition is a bit elusive. It’s a lot like pornography — you know it when you see it (I know, bad example. But there was actually a Supreme Court decision that ruled that way…).

Or maybe more importantly — you know it when you don’t see it.

Either way, it’s sometimes hard to pin down a definition.

I’ve heard this one quite a bit: “Character is who you are when no one else is around.” This captures a piece of the pie, but I like to add “… and you don’t think you’re going to get caught!”

The definition I have used in Police Dynamics training over the years comes partially from the folks at the Character Training Institute. They say “character is the inward motivation to do the right thing regardless of the circumstances.” I like this definition, too. But it was pointed out to me in a recent comment that this is a description of “good character,” because your character can be either good or bad.

I also like to add to this definition the following phrase – “… and regardless of the costs.” Because sometimes doing the right thing might cost you something. It could cost you a friend; it could cost you a court case; or it could cost you your job. Men and women of true character are willing to pay the price.

Many of you have already paid the price of good character many times over, and I applaud you for it. Thanks for setting such a good example. And feel free to share some of your experiences here, by the way.

And be sure to keep track of my blog by subscribing to the email feed for future posts. I’ve got some more good stuff coming.

And remember to “Keep up the good character!”

Sheriff Ray


5 thoughts on “A Working Definition of Character

  1. Good morning Sheriff Ray!

    Thanks for the comment and nice to hear from you again.
    I wanted you to know that I kept my word and have checked out your blog. I’ll definitely mark it as a favorite and have already posted it on my Facebook page for others to discover.
    Well spoken blog entry, and I like that you balanced it with a few angles. Interesting: “Who you are when no one else is around, regardless of cost and when you don’t think you’re going to get caught” That is a good definition of “character” as that can indeed encompass either “good” or “bad” character. I do find it interesting, or maybe not so surprising that you added “don’t think you’re going to get caught”. That’s so… policeman like đŸ˜‰

    Good character is so vital to a smoothly running society but I worry a lot these days about the lack of general conscience in many people’s characters and/or very different worldviews.

    As you mentioned, there are many times when there is no one around, and the only consequence of your actions may be what you gain, and the reaction of your “conscience”. I do a lot of personal development reading and Stephen Covey once said that it is very important to “educate your conscience” – that it’s important to read the ancient moral texts in, as he said “your chosen faith”. To me that means the Bible, and it is so true. Unless we read the word regularly and unless people teach us as we are growing up what right and wrong means, our consciences will not develop. I think we need a sensitive conscience in order to make the kind of choices that “good character” requires.


    • Well said. You are obviously a deep thinker on this subject. The Bible speaks about a conscience becoming “seared as with a hot iron” and that if you reject a good conscience, your faith can become “shipwrecked” (I love that term…). My message for Chapel this Sunday will focus on properly responding to the God-appointed authorities in your life, a foundational Biblical principle.

      And thanks for promoted my blog site. I’m new to this idea but trying to build a solid network…

    • Thanks, Jill. I’m just getting started, but I’m having fun with it. I’ve been doing character-based training for about 15 years all over the world, I’ve designed websites, written a book, and produced training videos. But I’ve never done blogging! So I’m hoping that with support from good folks like you that I can build a strong network. I want to expand into more general topics that are not specifically law enforcement related. I also want to do some video blogging… maybe later today!

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