Character is not a product of circumstance. It is what survives in spite of it.
I realize this could become a chicken-and-egg argument. That’s not the point. A circumstance rarely brings about something that wasn’t, at least in a small amount, present. But the circumstance can definitely reveal something either by growing and highlighting it or by pruning away other things and revealing what essentials remain.
Character is what survives through circumstances, and it can be positive or negative. And it might not be what we see in someone else, because people can be deceptive and inauthentic—with others and themselves. What they portray isn’t always what is at the core. But that character is revealed over time. People can certainly grow. They can also deteriorate. Time and a variety of circumstances and interactions refine and reveal character. There will often be some discrepancies along the way, but the context of those discrepancies and the response beyond them is telling.
What do we call out, encourage, ignore, and justify in others’ character and our own? What do we inquire about? What do we value? Our focus and intention says as much about what we value in others as what we value in ourselves. Authenticity and accountability take humility. Sound character takes intention and attention. It’s not circumstantial, because there is little to dispute at the core.
What is your core character? How are you fostering and protecting it?