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The Journal Gazette

September 22, 2016 1:00 AM

Content of your character

It's a perfect day to cultivate habits of trustworthiness

Marjorie Stephens

Marjorie Stephens is the president/CEO of Better Business Bureau Serving Northern Indiana. She wrote this for The Journal Gazette.

Happy Global Character Day!

I am certain Hallmark does not have a card designed expressly for today. However, at your Better Business Bureau, this day is cultivated and celebrated, for character is our true hallmark.

Character is how we behave even when no one is watching. Character is honor, integrity, strength, uprightness, rectitude, reputation and moral fiber.

On my wall, directly in front of me, are a couple of quotes: “Do the right thing” and “Have character.” Both are quotes you have most likely heard or read several times yourself. But the imprint of those quotes stays with me throughout the day. I can’t miss them (they are glaring at me daily!) and I won’t ignore them because those words are the essence of integrity.

When making a decision on handling a staff crisis, or before calling on a business or consumer who may have an issue with the way BBB handled a situation, two thoughts come to mind: Treat them the way you wish to be treated and handle the concern or issue with genuine care.

The answer may not always be what they wanted to hear, but you make the decision based on “it’s the right thing to do.”

Character sometimes comes with what may seem a high price.

It can be tested by the choices we make. It is tested when we are being hassled because we are standing up for the person with no voice against the bully. It is tested when we stand alone from others in what we believe, though that may not make us popular.

Character, good or bad, will eventually reveal itself. A failure in life can build or destroy character.

If you can realize that failure is a bump in the road and much can be learned from it, character is built. However, if you have failed and continue to make excuses, lie or blame others, character is destroyed.

Better Business Bureau’s mission is trust. The tagline below our logo is “Start with Trust.” Character influences our success. It has to do with taking personal responsibility for ourselves; never lying, never cheating, never taking what is not ours.

To be truly effective in business and in life, you need to gain the trust of others; integrity and authenticity are critical components to achieving our objectives.

Our premier program, Torch Awards for Marketplace Ethics, honors high school and university students, businesses, non-profits, and individuals, who all “do it right!” The program’s foundation is entirely about character.

The blending of these honorees as they interact with one another is impressive and showcases the exemplary makeup of our community.

As we at BBB often do, reflect on your own values and principles and the shaping of your habits to make sure you maintain a strong character. This will enable you to make your best possible decisions responding to the challenges you are faced with every day.

Often these decisions are made in a split second. Character cannot be bought nor is it inherited. It is your total responsibility to build that internal character. Hopefully, as a child, you had great role models who instilled good character, but it is up to you to maintain. But don’t stop there! Be a role model to everyone with whom you interact.

Society changes, practices change, programs change – but the principles of character never change. We can have all the ability in the world, but if we don’t have the basic character to be reliable, to take responsibility, others will soon learn to distrust us. What we are communicates far more powerfully than anything we say or do.

As Billy Graham said, “When wealth is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost. When character is lost, all is lost.”

Emulate character in every life you touch! Make it your lifelong passion!