Personality Vs Character
There is a trend amongst young people where the following phrase is asserted ‘its not about looks, its about personality’. I think its actually really silly and selfish to think like this; you’re actually just as shallow as one who only focuses on looks. What most of you probably mean or should mean is It’s about the character.
There’s obviously confusion between the two terms. Many will describe them the same as each other but its crucial that you learn to separate them.
Personality is subjective, everyone has a distinct personality. We are all a different combination of different traits; traits that we inherit or sometimes brought up with, say maybe after life changing events. Personality includes your sense of humor (or lack of), whether you’re confident or shy, friendly or stoic, whether you’re serious or laid back, etc. While some people have well-developed personalities that everyone loves, their character sucks and you eventually avoid them because deep down you know these traits don’t carry much value!
Character traits are objective, adaptable and vary- based on time and circumstances. Character can be taught or learnt and changes throughout our life, we choose to be that way. Character traits include being truthful, respectful, responsible, loyal and polite. Sometimes we’re the opposite for a moment, with certain people or in certain situations. So what you make of your character is actually your mentality being portrayed; If you’re someone who’s really impolite and a prick, you obviously have issues, something mentally doesn’t allow you to be polite to others. Luckily these can be challenged and developed, the best remedy is by reflection then by acting with the support of good company.
Now, the bigger problem- Personality is easy to read, and we’re all experts at it. We perceive people as extroverted, sensitive, optimistic, confident, ambitious as well as quiet, lazy, negative, and shy. Character, on the other hand, takes far longer to puzzle out. It includes traits that reveal themselves only in specific and often uncommon circumstances, traits like honesty, loyalty and kindliness. This is why you can’t just know a person, we all have our defects and differences.
Here’s an example of possible confusion between the two. Some people are naturally jealous, they tend too hate seeing others have what they don’t, this is a personality trait. Then there are others who are selectively jealous, for example they’d hate to see their husband flirt with another woman. Its just that one circumstance that gets them worked up – This is a characteristic.
‘Two things define you Your composure when You have nothing & Your attitude when You have everything’
It’s also important that it’s the character-element that you look out for in a future partner.. from business to marriage to selecting a room mate. The personality is laid out in front of you, its not changing. If they’re bubbly at first sight then they really are bubbly. Now there are people who are shy at first but this isn’t because of their personality, Its a characteristic of theirs that prevents them from opening up right away i.e them being cautious or leery. Although the character of a person is changeable, we often stick with what is good. So its uncommon to go from being really truthful to a constant liar but if you’re prone to lying then you’re going to have a hard time breaking that habit. And Just because someone is really friendly (Personality) doesn’t mean they aren’t sly (Characteristic). Its the nitty gritty bits that matter, often you’ll pick up on the character of a person in reactive situations.
There’s confusion between Muslims about what’s required from them when looking for a spouse. Many want to follow the Qur’an and Sunnah to the highest extent but because they’ve misunderstood the terms of hadith or have heard a Mullah use the term personality instead of character, there are people out there looking for the wrong traits.
Here’s an often quoted hadith for when choosing a marriage partner, traditionally a man proposes to a woman so the hadith is specifically directed to men but works both ways:
“A woman may be married for four reasons: for her property, for her rank, for her beauty, and for her religion (and character), so marry the one who is best in the religion and character and prosper.”
[Bukhari and Muslim]
So note how its translated as character and not personality, the perfect Prophet of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم specifically wanted us to focus on the character. Because we are Muslims, our character is going to be influenced by our deen. If we’re following the deen correctly then it will show in our character. These two go hand in hand for a Muslim.
Have you not noticed how the Sahaba’s were so devout in religion, clung on to the Sunnah from head to toe and resembled the character of the Noble Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم in every possible way yet had distinct personalities. The way Hz Umar رضي الله عنه stood tall and mighty yet humble from within. The way Hz Uthman رضي الله عنه was unconsciously generous. The way Hz Ali رضي الله عنه was just and indiscriminatory. It was only Hz Abu Bakr رضي الله عنه who was very similar in nature to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم .
Islam does not ask you to change who you are but to transform what’s bitter in you to something good.
Finally just because we have distinct personalities doesn’t mean we are free spirits. As Muslims we’re always finding a balance and working in moderation; we need to do that here too. Its actually a test given to us by Allah Ta’ala. Some of us get really jealous or get really angry; everyone has something they find hard to control, but we must, we must suppress these emotions and find a balance!
*What is the Islamic view of Abortion?: Islam and Abortion
*Analogy by Imam Ghazali, Interesting concept: Analogy of Life
*Palmistry is popular, everyone wants to know what their hand says. But is there any truth to it? Check out my post on Palmistry
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