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Reputation is what men and women think of us.
Character is what God and angels know of us.



These are the words a wonderful grade-school teacher wrote in the album of every graduating student, in an impeccable script that never wavered throughout the many years she taught. To receive this message from Miss Howlett was a rite of passage; you knew you had truly earned your ticket to high school when you were entrusted with these weighty words about life.

Character is what God and angels know of us.

But what, exactly, is character? Well, certainly, as Miss Howlett would say, it is more than just being thought well of by the world. It is more than simply appearing good, or even actually doing good things in public. Character is doing the right thing even when no one is looking, even when it hurts, even when it means personal loss, to the point of losing a good public reputation or favorable position.

The test of character is not when it’s convenient or easy to do good, but when it is difficult and arduous – when to do the right thing is to buck the tide and trend of the day.

We men must consider long and hard how we shape up to this standard. Do we do the right thing even when it’s the tough thing? Are we willing to stand up and stand out for principles? Where do we look for guidance and encouragement – to “God and angels” or to the promptings of the world?

After all, Jesus has strong words about the requirement to do what is right despite the cost:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:10).

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matt 7:21).

“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” (Mark 8:36).


Character and Greed

The issue of character, or lack of it, can hit close to home and have wide-ranging social effects.

Although there were many causes and forces at work in the current financial collapse, at the heart of the troubles is a crisis of character. If those in the financial sector, and government, had thought first about the common good, rather than greed or personal gain – and had refused to engage in what many knew to be bad business practices that had no long-term life – then we certainly would not be facing the depth of the present recession.

If men had developed the character to “do unto others as they would want others to do unto them” (see Matt 7:12), a whole lot of bad debt would not have been passed along the financial pipeline, only to choke the whole credit system and bring down entire banks. If more Wall Street whizzes had treated the money of investors as their own money, there would have been fewer risky investments, loans and “derivatives.”

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson talks about these facts in a recent column distributed by Zenit, and Pope Benedict XVI is also expected to address these issues in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Love In Truth), which is due to be released on July 7.

If we ever needed to hear a message about “love and truth,” it is now. We need desperately to hear the truth about the human person and the human condition. And we need to hear it in terms of charity or love, because only love reaches the heart, touches the will, and changes the person. As Pope John Paul II repeated often, “only love is an adequate response to the human person.”


Character and Creed


Character comes down to this: What do we believe and in whom do we believe? What are we willing to do or sacrifice for the truth?

Here’s a short check list for fathers:

  • Do I do the right thing even when no one is looking, or will find out – at home, at work, in the public sphere?
  • Do I refuse to be part of, or to give approval to, the wrongdoing of others?
  • Do I speak the truth in charity when the situation calls for me to do so – standing up for my faith, defending those unjustly accused, seeking justice in all my dealings with others?
  • Do I seek to pass on my faith and values to my children, even when they rebel or ignore me?
  • Do I live according to the Golden Rule, treating others as I would want to be treated?
  • Do I care more about the view of God and angels than the opinions of men and women?



Let’s build character together!


Back in the 1800’s, fraternal organizations were started with the aim of making men better men.  The fact is, good guys are contagious.  Get a group of good men together, and they will change their school, their campus, and the world. Every man is a work in progress, but here are 30 characteristics of a good guy any man can grow and become:

  1. He has integrity and character: simply put, a good guy is less talk and more action.  The Latin origin of “integrity” means whole, and when it comes to being a good guy, wholesome is sexy.  Everywhere he goes, he leaves a mark.
  2. He’s balanced: family and friends always comes first.  He prioritizes his time and is well-rounded in many areas.  He’s a modern Renaissance man.
  3. He’s confident: this doesn’t mean cocky at all.  He has a good self-image about himself and believes he deserves the best.
  4. He’s courageous: he goes after what he wants even in the presence of self-doubt.  He’s not afraid to approach women and spark conversation.
  5. He listens: the good guy doesn’t care about the sound of his voice.  He doesn’t interrupt and he follows the rule that 75% of the time should be listening vs. talking.
  6. He takes initiativethe good guy is a leader, and takes the first step in a group setting and in a relationship.
  7. He’s detail-orientedas tough as it is for a man, the good guy tries to stay on top of it and is organized.  When it comes to pursuing the girl of his dreams, he knows the little things count the most.
  8. He has self-respect and gives respect to all: he focuses on the kind of man he wants to be, and creates a positive internal self-dialogue.  A good guy is empathetic and forgiving.
  9. He challenges himself to be a better man: most men are raised to believe they need to fight and conquer.  A good guy understands to overcome one’s own self is better than competing and beating anyone else.
  10. He’s committed and faithful: he says what he means, and means what he says. He follows through with his word even with people who don’t follow through with theirs.  He’s loyal in relationship.
  11. He fights against injustice: when a good guy sees another guy act out of line with a female, he thinks it could be his own sister, mother or daughter, and steps in to fight the injustice, even if it’s his own friend that’s causing the problem.
  12. He’s honestthe truth can hurt, but it’s also the beginning of the healing process.  A good guy understands honesty might be tough up front, but the impact is far less than the outcome of long running white lies.
  13. He’s good with his money: he makes decisions to plan for the future, and makes a budget for himself.
  14. He has good humorhe doesn’t take himself too seriously, and is happy to be the pun of everyone’s joke.
  15. He’s humble: he lets others sing his praises instead of himself.
  16. He’s a team playerhe understands the team’s success is his success, and cares more about the team winning than his own ego.
  17. He’s adaptable: things don’t always go his way, but he picks himself up and tries again.  Throw him in any scene, and he’s comfortable.
  18. He has good manners: his actions are made with care and consideration.
  19. He’s always learning: the good guy loves life, and seeks to make the most out of it.  He reads at least one book a month.
  20. He’s shaped by men he respectshe finds mentors, men he wants to be like, and regularly meets with them.
  21. He has true and close friendships: he keeps a tight brotherhood around him and understands “iron sharpens iron as man sharpens man.”
  22. He has a desire to advance culturewhen he leaves the world, it will be a better place.
  23. He has temperance(moderate in action, thought, feeling and yup alcohol):  he’s not the wild and out of control guy at the party.  The good guy is the one who carries him home on his shoulders.  He thinks before he acts, and doesn’t let him emotions get the best of him.
  24. He supports and promotes moral excellence:  he knows what’s right and wrong.  The good guy is the one who helps an elderly lady carry her groceries to her car.
  25. He seeks peace when possible:  he confronts in private, but he’s never a doormat.  The confidence in himself is unwavering in tough times.
  26. He improves his physical health:  he knows his body is a temple, and works to improve his health and his image.
  27. He has a vision to lead:  with long-term thinking, the good guy leads with the realization his actions today will affect his life and others in the future.
  28. He has gratitude:  he works hard, and is thankful for everything he receives.
  29. He knows the importance of family:  not only is he concerned with the legacy he will leave, but he honors the legacy he has received and the traditions of his ancestors.
  30. He believes in his Creator:  he starts his day in prayer, and stops and listens for his next steps.

What would our character and reputations look like if we applied these principles?  Take one or two of these today and begin applying them to your life.  This list is based on some of the creeds of the most known fraternities.  What would fraternity reputations looks like if men followed the ideals?  No man is perfect, but we can all work on becoming better men.

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