Ten Most Common Character Flaws and What You Can
Do About Them
Everybody Has Them
for more info
If you're like most of us, you are constantly
dealing with people who would rather be right
than happy. They are that great class of
unfortunate souls who are incapable of admitting
they are wrong. They are convinced that their way
of living, their way of doing things, is best.
These characters wish that the rest of the world
would get with their personal program. Then,
according to them, everyone would be better off.
Or maybe you have a boss or coworker with a
flash-point temper who gets enraged over the
silliest things. Some of you might have a spouse
or partner who blames you for his or her
problems. Do you know anyone who prefers
criticism over solutions, or who relishes
These people have character flaws.
The truth is that everybody has them. Some of us
have more than others. You may notice you have
them too. I know I have my share.
Don't worry if you happen to see your flaws
surfacing as I describe them. That is a sign of
your own open-mindedness and willingness to get a
handle on your problems.
We are a society that is enamored with defective
character. We watch thousands of hours of TV and
films where the leading role is portrayed by an
imperfect character. We watch celebrities,
politicians and stars on and off the screen with
an almost morbid fascination for their defects:
J.R. on Dallas, Jeffery Geiger on Chicago Hope,
Diane on Cheers or Abby on Knotts Landing -- the
most flawed people seem to be among the most
captivating. Perhaps in their struggles we see
Great individuals with high character also have
glaring faults. It is precisely because they have
such high character that their flaws stand out.
The common perception that good people have fewer
flaws is wrong.
It is not a matter of more or fewer flaws. It is
the willingness to change them that counts. If
you read the lives of saints and sages you will
find that they too had to discipline themselves
to improve their character. It is in the process
of working on these flaws that one develops great
strength of character. Strength of character is
what this book is about.
Some people, you may have noticed, deliberately
cling to their defects of character. In fact
there are many who hone their flaws in order to
be in control or have power over others. As much
as some hate to admit it, there are evil people
in this world who use character flaws to get
ahead and dominate others. These individuals have
always been with us.
Our modern, allegedly enlightened society seeks
to reform them, even when it is obvious that
there is no willingness on their part to change.
As a society we have become fascinated with the
dark side, like sunbathers who bask in the
Your Character, Your Reputation
A person's reputation used to be based on living
a good and honest life. If you were someone who
kept your promises, and didn't take anything you
didn't deserve, you were considered good. A man
could go to his grave satisfied that he had lived
an honest life.
Nowadays a man or woman's reputation is often
based on hype, not morality. We judge a people by
how good they are at doing something. Sports
figures are considered great based solely on
their performance, not on the kind of people they
are. Since most of what goes on in our society is
based on promotion, it is publicity and not
character that determines our heroes. This
constitutes a great moral crisis for our society.
Celebrity is revered, and often name recognition
is more important than a good name. Worse yet,
having a good name no longer implies moral
substance. It means visibility through the media.
And the media is cultishly devoted to flaws.
In this book you will learn not only how to
identify the ten most common character defects,
but also what to do with them. You may ask, Why
bother?" I believe that the reward for
changing even one of your flaws is greater peace
of mind. It is worth it. If you don't think you
have any character flaws, feel free to put this
book down. You don't need my help. I offer my
condolences to your friends and relatives. If you
do work on yourself you will learn how to deal
with the flaws in others too.
Having character flaws is very human. Doing
nothing about them is tragic. Changing them is
evidence that you are more than mere flesh and
blood. Man reveals his spiritual nature through
his transformation in character. The greatest
evidence of the spirit working within man is the
fact that character can change. You possess the
ability to change.
In fact you are the possibility of change,
capable of a profoundly peaceful life if you
choose it. You must be willing to let go of the
character flaws that have been limiting you. It
is simpler than you can imagine.
Are You Possessed by a Flaw?
Most of you know how incredibly difficult some
people can be. "He's a bear to live
with," or "What a character."
These are expressions we have all used. You may
not have a name for the particular character
flaw, but you know what it looks like. It makes
for great gossip and keeps our attention riveted.
Archie Bunker had one-- he was addicted to being
right. Donald Duck had one -- raging indignation.
Popeye's girlfriend, Olive Oil, had one-- she was
the perpetual victim to Brutus, who was both
arrogant and intolerant. Character flaws affect
relationships. The know-it-all Ralph Crandon and
his intolerant wife, Alice, built a marriage
around their foibles.
Flaws add flavor and zest to life while creating
turmoil, chaos, and pain. For those of us who
love excitement and romance, flaws also add
intensity. They are often part of the key to
making deep relationships work. When you overcome
a defect in character or learn to tolerate those
found in your partner you add a profound bond to
So Why Change?
There are many reasons to work on character
flaws, even if your life seems to be manageable.
First of all, it is always good to strive for
perfection. Changing what you can is the
courageous thing to do, and life needs to be
lived courageously. Second, character flaws tend
to spin around in your emotional world like a
hurricane ready to hit the coast. They have power
to disrupt your relationships. A flaw can
suddenly become much more severe. Worse yet, one
character defect can trigger others to surface.
Third, flaws are automatic -- they occur without
your permission. When you are possessed by a flaw
it chooses when to surface and you are a hostage.
Fourth, the worse they get the more you will deny
that you have flaws. That is a problem in and of
Character flaws tend to come in clusters.
Intolerance can trigger anger, which can kick in
a feeling of rejection or inadequacy. These
clusters can spin and perpetuate themselves. You
only need to get one flaw going and the others
automatically join. When they are all working in
combination you are out of control. When they are
out of your control, your life becomes
unmanageable. I guarantee that when they are out
of control, then you have made the lives of
others unmanageable too. This is what I mean when
I say that your are possessed by the character
flaw. If it possesses you, then you are past due
for an emotional tune-up. Humans can't go a
hundred thousand miles with out a tune up. We
need to constantly correct our flaws. The good
news is that correcting them has many rewards.
Two Goals of This Book
Let me suggest two goals to you: your first goal
should be to transform your own character; your
second should be to learn how to survive the
flaws of others. When you achieve these two
goals, you will automatically become more
successful in relationships and in business.
You will be a better parent, a better friend, and
a wonderful spouse. Now I know that every
self-help book you have ever read tells you that
you must change your beliefs in order to change
yourself. They never seem to be specific about
what it takes to change a belief. I will be very
specific. I don't want to leave you with an
excuse not to change.
After you adopt new beliefs we will talk about
mastering the use of wholesome qualities, much
the same way you would use a character flaw. It
is a little more difficult at first. Being honest
doesn't come easily or automatically if you have
been by dishonest for a long time.
Peacefulness is torture for the rage addict. I'll
show you how to gently change. You can not,
however, change the beliefs of others. You can
suggest alternative beliefs or demonstrate that
you believe differently. You can't push a rope.
As my friend Charlie "Tremendous" Jones
would say, "You can take a horse to water,
but you can't make him drink. You can put salt in
his oats." The most important thing to
surviving the character flaws of others is to
find the good intention or the need behind the
flaw. When you discover the hidden need it is as
though you just salted those oats. You see, you
will have discovered the hole in a person's soul.
Holes in Your Soul
I'll bet you can spot a person with holes in his
or her soul. Have you ever complimented someone
on how she looks, only to have her deny it and
point out her flaws? Have you ever called someone
on his bad behavior only to have him point out
why you are the problem? Or maybe you know a
teenager? They all have holes in their soul,
unfulfilled needs that drive them to adopt
character defects in order to survive. Teenagers
are changing so rapidly that they don't have time
to hide their "stuff" the way adults
do. But you can spot it easily enough. Look at
the individual who wants everybody to like him.
He lies, distorts and makes up things as he goes
along, just to fit in or be appreciated. Unless
you are living in a cave someplace you see them
all the time.
Most of your flawed associates don't want to
change. When they do decide that it is time to
change they start working on their personality,
which is more superficial than character, and
easier to affect. That's like treating a skin
disease with makeup. Most of my colleagues will
tell you that it takes years of hard work in
therapy to make profound changes in the
personality. Many of them will also tell you that
you are stuck with your character. You can't
Don't you believe that for a moment. In my twenty
years as a psychiatrist, I have seen some of the
most miraculous transformations in character in
my patients. The good news is that the character
change seems to be simpler, sometimes almost
effortless. Not that you can change without
effort. It is just that some people have such a
profound transformation that it can only be
explained by the word "miracle."
What is the key to this miraculous character
change we see in some seriously flawed
individuals? Do these severely flawed beings hold
the secret to a pattern that we can adopt? My
take on it is that the key to this profound
transformation is a willingness to change, a kind
of humility. You don't have to be strong willed,
just willing. In fact it seems that the weaker
one is, while humbly admitting the need to
change, the more profound the change. Grace falls
like rain on the good and the bad. The hungrier
the crop the more it can absorb.
Willingness to change is not the same as changing
by self will. Willingness is the humility to
expose a hole in your soul. It is the honesty to
admit that there is a need that hasn't been
filled with all your attempts, efforts and
exertions. There is an empty feeling that can't
be relieved by obsession, confession, or
possession. You can use a flaw for control,
power, or manipulation, but in the end you are no
better off because a basic need still lies
This is an unusual self-help book because I am
not asking you to be strong to improve yourself.
I am not asking you to be motivated and to go
into action, to be passionate and energetic, but
to weaken a bit, to soften up, to be less rigid.
I am not promising you more intelligence and
pizzazz but more wisdom, humility and character.
Sanity, responsibility, and serenity are the
goals of this transformation. It isn't talent
that will take you there, but willingness. If you
are distressed enough to be willing to change,
something is going to happen. There is a core of
goodness in every individual that has been
programmed to help you grow. Some people have
their emotional growth stunted at an early age
because of abuse, trauma, alcohol, or drugs.
Still the process of transforming aches to occur.
The patient's soul is longing to grow up, trapped
in a body of an individual whose emotional growth
is stunted. Eventually with a little help, the
Are You Bored, Lonely, Inadequate or Feeling
A hole in your soul causes you to feel separate,
isolated and disconnected from others. You might
notice that some really high achievers are
running on empty, emotionally. They are trying to
fill a hole that causes them to feel inadequate,
unappreciated, or disapproved of by others.
In fact all these needs and negative feelings are
unconsciously connected to what we believe about
ourselves at the core of our being. Today there
are many people whose beliefs are so out of whack
that they are having an emotional-core meltdown.
It is a spiritual problem in essence that shows
up as a character crisis. I get excited when I
see someone in crisis. I know that there is a
power within you that will find the right stuff
to fill the hole in your soul. The crisis is a
signal that it is time to find meaning with in.
It is a time to look at your stuff to create a
life of peace, joy, and self-esteem.
You can only go backwards so far before you run
into something that causes you to change
direction. I learned this vividly when I did my
residency training while living in New York. We
used to park our cars using a technique learned
at the bumper-car ride in amusement parks.
Back up till it goes bang, then pull forward. It
doesn't work well in other parts of the country,
but in NYC it is quite effective.
We do the same thing with our emotions. We back
away from taking a good look at the beliefs we
live by until we can go no further. When you can
no longer live with what you believe, it is time
to start changing beliefs. Changing beliefs will
influence your character.
Character flaws hold the secret to wholeness.
They hold the key to knowing how to fill in the
holes in your soul.
What usually happens, though, is we try to fill
the holes in our soul with ego. We develop
swollen, inflated, or puffy egos.
Puffy Ego Syndrome
Okay, you can't find the term in any psychiatric
literature. That's because I made it up. It
simply means an ego that tries to compensate for
low self-esteem by making itself larger.
Your ego puffs itself up and tries to plug the
holes with defective exaggerations of character,
and your flaws get worse. You ego is trying to
help you survive. It helped learn social graces
and keep you toilet trained. It has done a pretty
good job. In fact your ego has learned how to be
creative in using character flaws. In my years of
treating patients, I have found ten flaws that
occur most frequently.
The Ten Most Common Character Flaws
Addicted to being right
Fixing blame and nurturing resentments
The dread seekers -- worry and fear
Resisting reality, intolerance
The poor me or martyr syndrome
Self-regard run riot
The excuse for everything -- inadequacy
Hypercritical fault finders
The trap, chronic dishonesty
Sparkle Like a Gem
This book is designed to help you shed some of
these ten flaws. It may also help you put some
new defenses to work with people who have always
gotten to you before. When you finish this book,
expect that your character will sparkle like a
finely cut gem, but don't expect to be finished.
If you are still alive when the last page is
read, that is a sign that you still have some
change to go through and more fun to experience.
This is a book about hope. You already have
everything you need to get going. If you have
identified one of the character flaws as your
own, don't focus too hard on it. Start exploring
the wholesome quality that could replace it and
make your life better.
You also do not have to read the book in order.
You know what you need better than I do. If you
want to skip to the chapter that seems
appropriate, then go to it. You don't even have
to finish this first chapter. Follow your own
sequence. Or ask a friend which one you need to
read first. Make sure it's an honest friend,
though, someone who will tell you the truth.
Did You Laugh at Yourself Today?
A real sign of maturity is the ability to laugh
at yourself. I hope you take yourself a little
less seriously after you read this book.
Re-creating yourself, changing your destiny, is
serious, but criticism from others really isn't.
When you start to change I guarantee that some
well-meaning friend or relative will try to get
you to be your old self. They will get a bit
uncomfortable with the changes they see.
They were used to your goofy behavior and would
like to see it continue. If they are offering you
criticism out of love and not the need to be
right, then accept it if it is true and be amused
if it isn't.
Remember that the goal of transformation is
profound peace and loving relationships. You
don't need all this aggravation just to fulfill
the need to be right or to be admired.
Life is a gift to you. Your life can be a
blessing to others. Your character is the
wrapping that the gifts of your soul are packaged
Make it a work of art. The world will be a better
place if you do.