One of the aspects of our family home, the one we’ve moved back into in recent months, is that – as one friend commented – it has character. Yes, it does. It has unique attributes that give it its own personality and atmosphere, similar to the way people have theirs. It got me wondering, “How does this happen to a house? How do we recognize when a person has character? What does that really mean?”

A few definitions for “character” include: personality, disposition, moral fiber, nature, spirit, and more. When applied to a house, it must come from its architects and, eventually, its residents. We can witness over time how a homeowner or family adds to the personality of a house through its décor, landscaping, and wear-and-tear – the livingness of life. The nicks and bruises, repairs and improvements, even the human or animal scents of those who live there, all modify the original structure. Modifications can be the result of a family’s growth, such as changing a paint color of a room to indicate a boy or girl occupies that space, adding an addition or remodeling a basement as individual interests expand. The space becomes personalized and takes on features that are connected to its occupants and their life events.

This happens to us as well. Our physical development as humans begins in the womb, before we even enter this outer world. We’re born into a family or situation that begins to mold the person we can become – through traditions, rituals, customs, rules, etc. We begin to engage in the shared world, go to schools, join activities, groups and churches, make friends and adversaries, get jobs, and have all sorts of relationships. Every interaction and experience impacts us in some way…it just does.

You may not remember every single thing in detail, but your participation is forever logged in your being, whether physically, mentally or spiritually. It shapes the person you become – and you are always becoming more of who you are capable of being. This “what” – this beingness of you­ – is your character. Just like a home – the nicks and bruises of life, the self-improvements and growth opportunities, the mental expansion that experiences naturally provide – your personality, nature, and spirit are impacted. These factors and more shape the person you are and how you respond to the world and all its interactions of life.

Your character is your way of being in the world, how you think about it, and your part in it. It’s the way you react or respond… judge or accept… blame or take responsibility… avoid or participate… reject or choose. While aspects of character, such as honesty, integrity, ethics, etc., are shared by all, each person’s interpretation of those aspects is what makes their character unique to them. I learned a quotation decades ago that has served me well: “The true character of a man is what he does when no one is looking.” (This applies to women, too.)

A house becomes a home…a baby becomes an adult. Every transformation may include pain and hard work. The final result depends on the effort made throughout the process and the quality of mind put into the creation. As long as you are breathing, you will never be finished creating the person you can become and the character you hold within. And isn’t that a wonderful thing!