“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the
content of their character.” —Martin Luther King, Jr
I think the best definition for content of character is: “what you do when you
are alone”. Simple yet, powerful in meaning. It’s much more than:
“the things you don’t do because you might get caught” or “activities you
refrain from because you adhere to a moral code”.
Another way to put it might be, character is who you are when no one is
Wikipedia tells me the word character comes from the ancient Greek
charaktêr, the mark impressed upon a coin. My dictionary cites carecter, (from
the Middle English), a distinctive mark, imprint on the soul.
The reference to a distinctive mark made me think back to my art history days, when I learned about cameo, which in art history does not refer to “a brief appearance of a person of prominence.” Rather the word “cameo” is a method of carving that features a raised (positive) relief image contrasted with intaglio, which has a negative image. Originally cameo referred to works carved in precious stone with two layers of sharp, contrasting colors. The artist would carefully cut away at the layers resulting in the beautiful and complex character of the piece.
Is it the sharpness of contrast that makes us who we are when no one’s
looking? Or is it the scars of experience engraved upon us that make us
Whatever the content of your character is, it can’t be fabricated. Character is
revealed when a person acts on their own intentions, without judgement or
outside opinion. Design and marketing can’t give character to your
business—but it can ensure that your true colors are shown to the right
audience—making for a cameo worth seeing.
Call me. It’s time to redefine.