Lucas Brenner » Articles » Character Traits Are Not Good or Bad

Some character traits are more respected in society than others because they are interpreted as strengths. For example, society values a courageous person more than a cautious one and prefers structure over chaos. This one-sided evaluation of character traits is not correct. An overly courageous person is a daredevil. Too much structure prevents creativity and limits one's thinking.

A trait in itself is neither good, nor bad. You can only evaluate character traits in connection with other traits. This is possible with the so-called value square, which I will present in this article. If you have found values that you want to adopt in your life after this exercise, you should write them down in personal guiding principles.

The value square, which was developed by the philosopher Nicolai Hartmann and the psychologist Paul Helwig, represents the complex relationships of values. This makes it possible to evaluate them. In addition, development potentials of your own character can be determined. The value square always allows for a positive evaluation and does not focus on individual values, but on the relationships between them.

The value square always consists of a value and an opposite value, as well as the exaggerations of these two qualities. For example, if we consider courage, the countervalue would be caution and the exaggerations would be recklessness as well as cowardice. These qualities can be represented graphically.

Square of values with the character traits courage, caution, recklessness, and cowardice
Square of values with the character traits courage, caution, recklessness, and cowardice

The two exaggerations of the values are undesirable properties. The value and countervalue, on the other hand, are positive qualities, but they must be in balance. Thus, to have a good character trait, one must have a certain amount of courage (moving from courage toward foolhardiness), which must be balanced by a certain amount of caution (moving from caution toward cowardice). Overall, you end up at the star, which is the center of the graph. There lies the optimal, desirable character trait that is balanced between courage and caution. Courage without caution means recklessness, while caution without courage produces cowardice. Courage must be balanced by caution to produce a positive effect.

The value square can be filled with all values. For example, if you take the value of frugality, the counterpart would be generosity, and the excesses would be greed and wastefulness. Again, the potential for development is at the center of the values square where the values are in balance.

The value square can be used to evaluate character traits in relation to each other. You can also use this tool to develop your own character. Through self-assessment or assessment by others, for example by family or friends, you assign a value from 1 (not prominent) to 10 (strongly prominent) for each of the four characteristics of the value square. If the exaggeration of a value is more prominent than the respective value itself, you should act.

The value square shows you potentials that you can use to develop yourself further. Fill it with different values that are important to you to check whether and in what form you have integrated them into your own character.