Behavior: The Essence of Character…
It’s often said to never critique the person, but critique the behavior. The thought is to differentiate between the two. The person is who we are; the behavior is what we do. It’s a noble thought, but if behavior isn’t the essence of our character, then what is?
French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) famously wrote, “I think; therefore I am.” Noticeably lacking from his quote is the act of doing. Descartes surmises that thought is the essence of our existence. If we think, then we must be.
The point of this blog isn’t to discuss the philosophical foundations of our existence (far beyond the scope of any 500 word treatise), but more so to observe the impact that behavior plays upon our experiences and interactions with others.
Life is about people. Even the loneliest of souls can’t avoid the fact that people are intrinsic to our existence. Certainly one can lead an isolated life, but even those who choose to, in some shape or form, must come to depend upon the behavior of others. We are not islands unto ourselves. Modern day civilization did not arise in the blink of an eye, but is the product of those who have gone before, or perhaps more succinctly, the behavior of those gone before.
If our ancestors only ever thought, but gave no actions to those thoughts, I dare say we’d be sitting in caves somewhere thinking about where the next meal is coming from. Even cavemen put action to thought when going out to spear that next meal. And it’s largely how our ancestors behaved that determined whether or not they’d make it to live another day. It’s a testament to their fortitude that we, in our modern-day society, should be so fortuitous to reap the benefits of the seeds that they sowed.
In the same vein, it’s our daily behavior that speaks for the thoughts we harbor. If thinking is the proof of our being, then behavior is the essence of our character. Certainly, we must think before we act; the idea to act must come from somewhere, even if with minimal thought, and it’s the resulting behavior that determines who we are (see Consistency: the Hallmark of Character…).
It’s when behavior becomes erratic or unpredictable at best, that we must seek to understand the person exhibiting it. It may not be our place to judge such behavior, but it’s definitely our place to determine the extent to which we wish to interact with it. There’s nothing more insane than insane behavior wreaking havoc on sane behavior. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results, then sanity behooves us to behave differently if we are to expect different results. Herein lays the essence of who we shall become.
It’s the German poet and author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) who said that “Behavior is the mirror in which everyone shows their image.” We’d bode well to remember this as we make our way through life, for it isn’t what we think that matters to others, but rather what we do. Our behavior is the badge of who we are, and ultimately the essence of our character…
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