The Character Gap

The Character Gap : How Good Are We?

3.13 (30 ratings by Goodreads)
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We like to think of ourselves, our friends, and our families as pretty decent people. We may not be saints, but we are basically good, fairly honest, relatively kind, and mostly trustworthy.

One of the central themes of The Character Gap is that we are badly mistaken in thinking this way. In recent years, hundreds of psychological studies have been done which tell a rather different story. We have serious character flaws that prevent us from being good people, many of which we do not even recognize in ourselves. Does this mean that instead we are wretched people, vicious, cruel or hateful? Christian Miller does not argue that this is necessarily the case either.

Instead, the more we put our characters to the test, the more we see that we are a mixed bag. On the one hand, most of us as bystanders will do nothing as someone cries out for help. Even worse, under pressure from authority figures we might kill innocent people. Yet it is also true that there will be many times when we selflessly come to the aid of a complete stranger, or don't lie, steal, or cheat even if we could get away with it.

As we embark on this journey of putting our characters to the test, some of the main questions will include:

What is good character?
Why should we bother working to develop a good character?
What does the research in psychology suggest about how good (or bad) our characters really are?
What secular strategies for improving our characters show a lot of promise?
What religious, and specifically Christian, strategies for improving our characters show a lot of promise?

In The Character Gap Miller shows not only how mixed our characters tend to be, but also how we can try to bridge the gap between who we are and the virtuous people we should strive to become.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 288 pages
  • 136 x 184 x 27mm | 334g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0190264225
  • 9780190264222
  • 394,568

Review quote

Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught us that nothing that we despise in the other is entirely absent from ourselves. Christian Miller teaches us that the road to virtue lies in humility about our own virtue and an acceptance that others are struggling with their flaws. This is a very valuable book at a moment when our society could use a dose of openness and a sense of forgiveness. * E.J. Dionne Jr., Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution and University Professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture, Georgetown University * The topic of character is both timeless and timely. In this especially lucid and personal narrative, Christian Miller guides the interested reader through the modern science of character, with special emphasis on its moral aspects, and with helpful and practical recommendations for its development. * Angela Duckworth, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, and author of Grit: The Power and Passion of Perseverance * Christian Miller cautions that this is not a self-help book. Don't believe him. Of course, it is not a set of tips and tricks to magically become a better person. But if honest, realistic self-knowledge and clear-eyed empathy are crucial for the moral life, then this book will help. Anyone serious about traveling the road to character should bring this book on the journey. * James K.A. Smith, Professor of Philosophy, Calvin College, and author of You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit * This is a book full of insight, informed by research and written by someone with a profound understanding of character. It is a must read for anyone looking for a fresh presentation of its importance in human life. * James Arthur, Director of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, University of Birmingham * It is accessible and it makes you think. It engages and entertains. It tells you what character is and lets you know how you can cultivate it. This book is a must read. Full of facts that will stay with you. It is well researched and the author really knows his stuff. Brilliant. * Frost Magazine * a beautifully crafted book, and rewards several reads. * Heythrop Journal * The book is a sobering reflection on the ambivalent nature of human behaviour and motivation, made all the more authoritative by its research basis. * David Lorimer, Paradigm Explorer *
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About Christian B. Miller

Christian B. Miller is Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University and Director of the Character Project (, which was funded by $5.6 million in grants from the John Templeton Foundation and Templeton World Charity Foundation. He is the author of over 75 papers as well as two books with Oxford University Press: Moral Character: An Empirical Theory (2013) and Character and Moral Psychology (2014). He is also the editor or co-editor of
Essays in the Philosophy of Religion (Oxford University Press), Character: New Directions from Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology (Oxford University Press), Moral Psychology, Volume V: Virtue and Character (MIT Press), Integrity, Honesty, and Truth-Seeking (Oxford University Press), and The
Continuum Companion to Ethics (Continuum Press).
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Rating details

30 ratings
3.13 out of 5 stars
5 7% (2)
4 30% (9)
3 40% (12)
2 17% (5)
1 7% (2)
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