This is a quote that speaks to me and is in tune with my thinking. While all of us wish to put our best face/foot forward in public, does it sometimes make us do things against our grain? It is a fascinating subject to ponder over. I mean think if we spoke the absolute truth when we went for interviews, or if we actually told what we felt to our partner and friends. For one, we would be jobless and friendless and for another the world would become a really mean place. Hence, there are tools like tact and diplomacy which make us beat around the bush and not really make the point we are trying to make. Fair enough?

What I am more concerned about is what we think and do when we are nude only with our thoughts and feelings? Do we try to fool ourselves? Do we ever introspect about what we have done or said? And more importantly how do we behave? If we are able to look ourselves in the eye and sleep with a clear conscience or toss and turn because we hurt/wronged someone then do we possess good character?

Yet there is no dearth of mean, rude, terrible people in this world? Are they devoid of character? Does their conscience ever prick when they steal what is due to another, abuse, kill and molest?

Is good character well and thriving or an outdated phenomenon?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks Kokila and Top 10 Indian blogs for the tag in the 3 day quote challenge.

I tag Beloo Mehra, Suresh Chandrasekaran and Dagny Sol if they would like to pick up the tag to share their favorite quotes with us.



40 Thoughts on “About character and conscience

  1. I don’t think ‘good character’ is an outdated phenomenon or concept. Yes, it’s rarer these days – perhaps because people feel the need to express their opinion – whether someone asks for it or not. I suppose there used to be a bit more ‘tact’ in tackling challenging situations earlier; these days, not so much.
    As for whether people feel guilty or spend time introspecting, perhaps not much. For if they did, they’d want to correct their wrongs. Or at least not repeat them.
    Interesting post, Rachna.

    • I agree that we have thrown tact to the wind these days. And not only on social media with relative strangers. My society’s email list is replete with ‘jerk’ mails where people often have a go at each other, using objectionable language despite knowing each other in flesh and blood for years. Sometimes, it is also to showcase one’s intelligence and knowledge. I wonder if good character is interlinked with good behavior?

      Thanks for stopping by, Sid.

  2. I also believe that a persons real character comes to light when the person thinks he is not being observed, or judged. That is when they reveal their true self. The society’s definition of a good character undergoes a metamorphosis each day. It is so hard to understand if goodness is just for the sake of goodness or it is more deep rooted.

  3. Good character is not outdated. Good behaviour? That’s another subject altogether. I keep coming back to the understanding that people are a lot less tactful online than they are in person. There are more visual and verbal cues in person that you can easily miss when you interact online.

    But none of this is an excuse for bad character, of course. Fundamentally, we are all capable of honest reviews of ourselves. Very few of us do it though and even if we did, we don’t share what we learn. That’s fair enough, of course, because as long as you are okay in your skin, what others say should not matter.

    I agree with you that as long as our thoughts and behaviour are in consonance, both when people are watching and when you’re alone, it’s a lot easier to live life. No scope for pretense, you see πŸ™‚ Lovely quote, by the way!

    • I was wondering if good behavior is in anyway linked to good character. It ought to. And if we can really judge someone’s character based on their public behavior because we know that the public persona can be cultivated. I guess personally I like to be honest with myself in the good or bad that I do. Thanks for such an insightful comment, Shy.

  4. It’s quite complicated when we mull over it. Having said that, the quote is powerful and there is need for us to stand for something which is right. True, truth often harms and we can be subjected to manipulation in this bad bad world. But, at the same time, we need to be smart. Like they say, Never argue with a fool, they will beat you at their own game.

    • I am loving the comments and various perspectives that people have shared here. It shows that the quote speaks differently to each one. There is a need for us to do what is just and right. I agree!

  5. Rightly said, the true test of his character is what he does when no one is watching except He, himself. As far as good character is thriving or outdated is concerned, Good itself is a vague term; what appears good to you may not appear good to others. In a survey conducted among prisoners, only 2% admitted that they deserved for what they did.

    Indeed a thought provoking post. Good job, Rachna. (Y)

    • I loved the spin you gave it. Indeed, good can vary too. I guess I meant just and decent behavior as related to good character. Thanks for reading, Ravish.

  6. Thanks for the tag, Rachna! You are going to make me work πŸ˜€ Will follow it up in the coming days/weeks.

    I really like the quote you share here. And your thoughts that accompany it. Why do we so feel the need to create a ‘goodie’ persona in public when in reality our true character maybe something different? Very important question indeed. I don’t think good character or clear conscience are outdated phenomena, it is just that perhaps many people are too busy creating a persona or a public image (often a politically correct one), one that makes them look good not necessarily act good! If you think about it, isn’t it strange that so many people don’t pause ever and take the time to introspect on their actions, choice of words….just so busy with the pace of life or what? I don’t really understand.

    • No problem, Beloo. I want to hear your quotes. I am sure you will come up with some lovely ones.

      I can only nod to your thoughts. I have no answers though. I wonder if some of us just bump off that prickly conscience over time.

  7. When no one is watching then the truth comes out. When no one is watching even then we are watched by the good little angel inside. What a lovely thought to share.
    It cannot be outdated because our conscience will survive or else how will the human race?

  8. Nice quote Rachna. Its true that the projected image of a person in public can be different from the real face. Problem arises when the gap is far and wide. From that stems the inconsistency in character.

  9. Rachna! To me, tact is the telling of truths in a manner that builds up the other person and does not tear him down. It is NOT lying. Like my school teacher, faced with my attempts at what I called ‘drawing’ and finding that even the labels did not help her identify what was drawn, telling me, “You are the youngest student in the class and you are in the top 5. So, don’t bother if you do not draw well. Not everyone has every talent.” THAT was tact. She could have told me, “You call this drawing? My cat can do better.” OR outright lied, “Lovely drawings.” When it comes to communication, all of us seem to work with the notion that, just because we can string words together, we know how to speak/write. Very few take the trouble to also see how best to phrase the truth in a manner that is not hurtful to the other person. THAT is too difficult and we can always hide behind the ‘I was only being honest’ excuse.

    In a way, I think it is also a reflection on character. We have become increasingly self-centered and, thus, empathy is so uncool a concept now – only because we seem to have lost the ability to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes before we speak. There is worse, I know, but from what I have seen of people, a lot of what is worse in them stems back to this obsessive concentration on one’s own self to the exclusion of others.

    Thanks for the tag. Does that mean I should put up three quote-based posts for three days? Consecutive days ? Am a bit out of it these days πŸ™‚

    • I completely agree with you about tact. Indeed, tact is about saying something in a manner which does not hurt the other. This is exactly how it should be. But my experience is that some people go overboard with their niceness losing the message in the bargain. The truth suffers in all the beating around the bush. Now your teacher did it well and gently. Perhaps as her student you respected her and valued her opinion. Imagine if it were a teacher, parent, friend, colleague that you didn’t like or hold in high esteeem. Then even their truth would be rejected by you no matter how it is delivered.

      There are some people who are pure jerks. They have no clue how they behave. And they hide behind honesty while spewing venom. I have nothing but contempt for them. In fact, ill mannered people are a complete turn off for me.

      I was wondering whether our good character surfaces in public and private and whether there is dichotomy between the two. Also can we equate good behavior to good character?

      Sorry that I forgot to write the rules. Yes, 3 tag posts each having your favorite quote. You can do it daily or with breaks. I can’t do it daily. πŸ™‚ You can nominate 3 other bloggers and mention the one who tagged you. Would be lovely to read your quotes. πŸ™‚

      • As far as that ‘tact’ goes, I consider it tact ONLY if it is truth told well, Rachna! Considering that it is so rare to find, I rather think that not liking such a person is unlikely – though, yes, people do operate on ‘if it is a madrasi/punjabi/marathi/whatever I will not like her’ basis πŸ™‚

        There are people who are naturally tactful; people who do not care for others and can put on any face as it suits them to. For such, indeed, there WILL be a difference between behavior and character. There are others who use all the mannerly words – the ‘please’, ‘sorry’ and all that – but their manner of saying and their actions give them away. To be truly tactful (when you do not just have the knack of it), in word and deed, it requires that you truly empathize. If you are the sort who can truly empathize, then you HAVE to have good character.

        But, then, I am sure that people will be schooled to only have the knack of it πŸ™‚

        • Interesting observations, Suresh. πŸ™‚ Since I’ve come across all the kinds you’ve mentioned above, let me mull a bit more over what you mentioned.

  10. That is so correct. We are true to our nature to no one but to ourselves. We can not lie to ourselves and when we do, our life gets immersed in problems! So not only character even our happiness depends on the conduct we do when no body is watching πŸ™‚ thanks for sharing this wonderful quote, Rachna.

  11. I wish we were all true by nature so that we don’t have to come home and analyse ourselves. But that’s not always the case. I know there are few honest souls who are a little too innocent for the world. Loved the quote.

  12. This is an interesting subject. I remember writing something on this topic some time back. People talk so much about being true and wanting to hear the truth, but in reality people dont want to hear the truth. They only want to hear what they want to. We can be diplomatic when dealing with others, but unless we’re true to ourselves, it is very difficult to grow and change for the better.

    • “We can be diplomatic when dealing with others, but unless we’re true to ourselves, it is very difficult to grow and change for the better.”
      You said it!

  13. So, are we as nice as we present ourselves to be?! Or, this age, as we present ourselves on Facebook! πŸ˜›
    I have met many very nice and genuine people and there always will be nice and genuine people. Unfortunately, such people are not very vocal or flashy, so we don’t really hear from them much, but they are there, if we choose to sift the grain from chaff!

    • Just a bunch of questions that I frequently ponder over. I have no answers though. πŸ™‚ Yes, we have a lot of nice people around. Does character really relate to overtly nice behavior and also do we really behave well when no one is looking?

  14. Rachna. I feel there is no right and wrong. It’s the consequences that reveals and judges our actions.

    In our own reality, we are heroes who were wronged.

    • There is right and wrong but its degrees may vary from person to person. I was wondering if character and conduct are correlated? If we can consider a person to be of good character by polite behavior? Are we true to ourselves and our morals when no one watches us?

  15. Yes, we are what we are, when nobody’s watching. Even I have thought about this so many times. But even then, there is still one observer – us πŸ™‚ sometimes, even the very aspect of us observing ourselves, change the way we behave. Some people become expert as fooling themselves too !

    • Bang on, Asha! The fact that we are conscious of ourselves and our conscience makes us watch our behaviour. But like you said, some people end up fooling themselves as well. So behaviour is not necessarily a good pointer towards character.

  16. Exactly there is no dearth of mean, rude, terrible people in this world and they are really devoid of character and their conscious never prick when they steal what is due to another, abuse, kill and molest. This is true as every second somewhere or everywhere in this planet horror stories of loot, dacoity, murder, molestation etc is reported.

    But still good character is very much alive, which makes life easier. Good and bad is co – existing.

  17. I dont think it is an outdated phenomenon. Sooner or later, in their quieter moments, the crooks or the terrible people would be prisoner of their conscience.

  18. rohan on July 5, 2015 at 1:00 pm said:

    good character is outdated for contemporary world. people respect good as long as he/she doesn’t protest or speak against any individual or a group.the moment he/she speaks good things that affects people practises,he/she is considered as villain and their reaction will range from killing to verbal abuse. i face this on daily basis,whenever i tell educated who get drunk,smoke and disturb others not to do,am a villain.whenever i say educated english movie watching patrons of multiplex to not to disturb others movie experience,people will make fun of you.when i went to iit-jee coaching classes on the first day,what i heard from institute director is’WE ARE LEAST BOTHERED ABOUT YOUR DISCIPLINE OR CHARACTER,WE JUST RESPECT PEOPLE WHO CAN SCORE MORE’. that was strange to me at that stage coz our cbse school insisted discipline all the time though none of students were interested.even when it comes to getting a girl friend,girls like someone who has mastered survival of fittest,they just don’t care about good character coz everyone wants to just survive by any means.our society has already turned rogue and there is no going back.any individual with good character can never lead peaceful life in a country like india,i dunno about other countries coz i din’t experience their social life or behavior. india is a rogue nation and indians are rogues,there is no space for good character.

    if you look at indian traffic,you can read whole society.a person who can’t follow basic traffic rules speaks greatness of india and yoga day. what’s the use of doing yoga if your mind is already corrupt,its useless. baba ramdev is one prime example for characterless will find such million babas and billion rogues who dunno meaning of good character in our society.

  19. Good choice of quote, Rachna. πŸ™‚ But my grandma used to always say, when no one is watching, YOU are watching YOU. Don’t do anything to lower yourself in your eyes. After all you are the most important person in your life. πŸ™‚

    On another note, I don’t think that good character is outdated. But more often than not, it doesn’t translate into good behavior – at-least in the virtual world. I have found people to be more mean and provocative over social media. The same people will be a lot more polite or at-least will exercise more self control in person.

    • I completely agree with your grandmother. πŸ™‚ But aren’t there people who completely ignore the YOU. Else why would we have criminals or even mean people? Virtual world is another beast altogether. I guess I was referring to real-world behaviour in this post.

Do not leave without commenting. I love a good conversation :).

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