How to be a good person: 13 character traits that define moral excellence

Many people say you’re a good person, but how can you really tell if you are one?

You have your days when you feel saintly, sure. But you also have days when you feel like the devil himself!

It’s difficult to tell for certain, but there are tell-tale signs that you’re indeed a good person despite your off-days.

In this article, I’ll give you 13 character traits that show you’re indeed a good person.

1) You genuinely care about others

When you see someone suffering or in need of help, do you feel an urge to step up and help them?

Then it’s a sign that you’re a good person.

Sure, you may not help everyone in need (no one can!)—and yes, you DO set boundaries—but when you’re capable of helping others, you do it.

You don’t just do it to make YOURSELF feel good for helping them…or to relieve yourself of guilt.

What makes you extra special is that you do these things without any ulterior motive.

You help and care because you truly care about other people. Period.

2) You’re honest (except on some occasions)

You never lie or deceive others to get ahead or to get away from the consequences of your actions.

In fact, you voluntarily give information if you know that others deserve to know the truth.

For example, if your ex sent you an “I miss you” message, you’d tell your partner about it! Of course, you don’t want to ruin your partner’s mood (who wants to do that?), but you have a NEED to be totally transparent…so you tell them.

You’d rather you get a little uncomfortable confessing the truth than to get “comfortable” keeping it to yourself.

But well…there are certainly some times you lie and you do feel bad about it. But these are occasions wherein you don’t want to hurt others feelings.

For example, when someone asks you if they look good—and there’s no way for them to change their makeup or outfit at the last minute—you’d say yes.

You do it not because you want to deceive them, but because you don’t see the point of making them self-conscious the whole night. As long as they don’t look like a clown, they don’t have to know your 100% honest opinion.

3) You don’t use people

It’s very human to be ambitious. Who doesn’t want to be successful and rich?

But unlike others, you prefer to do it the clean way.

You don’t befriend people just to get “connections” and perks. You don’t seduce your boss or colleague just so they’ll think of you come promotion time.

And whenever you meet someone new, you don’t automatically think “How can this person help me achieve my goals?”.

Instead, you treat people as humans and you relate with them to form pure friendships…not to get ahead in life.

Using people as your stepping stone is simply not your thing.

4) You care about the process, and not just the outcome

The end justifies the means—NOT! Well, at least for you.

You care about how you and others are affected by the steps you take to achieve a goal.

You don’t want to be like those dictators who turn a blind eye on their “how” —even if lives are lost and put in danger—just because they want what is “best” for everyone so badly.

You are very careful on how you operate things—making sure everyone is alright, making sure you’re doing what’s morally upright—because the end result doesn’t matter if the process has caused trauma and suffering to others.

There’s always a better way to do things, in your opinion— and you’re patient and motivated enough to find it if it guarantees the well-being of everyone.

5) You say NO to temptation

Walking away from something that’s delicious is extremely difficult. Especially if you know there’s no way that you’d get caught…especially if you’ve been waiting for it your whole life.

But you stop yourself from getting carried away simply because it’s the right thing to do.

Does this mean you’re repressed? Probably. But it’s the kind of sacrifice you’re willing to make to have a dignified life.

You’d push away your office crush if they try to kiss you because you already have a partner waiting for you back home. You know that kissing them for even one second is hurtful to your partner and it will make you feel guilty for life. Not worth it.

You’d say “no” to a $5,000 “gift” even if you only have $20 in your bank account…because you know the one who gave it would ask unethical and illegal favors in return.

No matter how tempting it to just let go of your morals from time to time, you’d rather not do it…so you walk away.

6) You don’t cheat on your partner

You probably know that being cheated on by the one person you love is the worst feeling in the world. It’s too painful especially if you’re really good together!

And so, you’d never ever do this to your partner—not even if things between the two of you have become rocky, and not even if there’s ZERO chance that you’ll get caught.

If you cheat on your partner, you might as well break up with them afterwards because you can’t stand living a lie. You can’t imagine kissing them again and cuddling with them…when you just kissed or said “I love you” to someone else!

So NO, you’d never cheat.

If you realize you no longer love your partner, that’s why you’re in love with someone else, you’d do the right thing—try to fix the relationship first. And if that doesn’t work, you break up with them before you even consider getting intimate with the new person.

7) You don’t badmouth anyone

You hate saying bad things about others…even about your enemies!

Sure, you SHARE your frustrations to your closest friends and family if you’re really overwhelmed, but you wouldn’t make it a habit to say bad things about others. It doesn’t make you feel good and it’s simply not your style.

You know people can be annoying and selfish and outright evil but you don’t want to deal with them by sputtering vitriol every chance you get.

It’s a waste of your precious time and it’s not aligned to your principles. You do not want to attack people using your words because it will always be one-sided. The person you’re attacking can’t defend themselves.

You’ve been a victim of gossip many times in the past and you don’t want to inflict the same damage to others.

So you’d rather keep quiet and if you really can’t help it, deal with them directly—face to face.

8) You give people the benefit of the doubt

If you’re at a party with your partner and you saw your partner getting a little too touchy feely with their sexy colleague, you don’t storm out of the building, accusing them of having an affair.

You’d talk to them in private and let them explain their side.

If a friend shows up very late on your birthday, you won’t assume they don’t love you enough or that they really don’t prioritize your friendship, you’d let them explain. And when they say they had trouble back home or they’re stuck in traffic, you’d believe them and forgive them.

You don’t jump to conclusions because you know it’s just unfair. Besides, you’re not perfect yourself and you’d want to have the chance to explain yourself if ever you disappoint others.

9) You don’t take bad shortcuts

There are shortcuts to success (to anything, really)—and it’s wise to take them if you want to achieve your goals faster.

But there are good shortcuts and there are bad shortcuts.

If you’re a genuinely good person, you wouldn’t even consider taking the bad shortcuts even if you’re guaranteed to get what you want in the end.

It makes you think “What if everyone takes bad shortcuts. What kind of world would that be? And would I want to live in it?”

Sometimes, we give ourselves “free passes” for being sneaky. We tell ourselves “It’s just this one time…” but you know that one time will lead to two, until it becomes a habit.

And so you always take the morally upright path even if it’s slow and difficult.

So what if it would take you years or even decades before you achieve success? It’s better than compromising your principles.

10) You look after yourself

You can’t consider yourself “good”—even if you’re the nicest and sweetest person in the world—if you don’t take responsibility for yourself.

So even if you’re a good listener and you’re loyal and kind…none of that matters if you keep asking people for money because you REFUSE to work.

And even if you’re honest and generous…if you’re an alcoholic who hits their partner (and refuses to go to rehab!), then you’re definitely not a good person.

You have to take responsibility for yourself and not be a burden to those around you. This is a prerequisite for being a good person.

I’d take the grumpy person who is self-reliant and responsible than the smiling person who is fine being a burden to others.

11) You are one of the most patient people you know

If you’re patient, it makes being good much, much easier—effortless, even.

If you’re patient, it follows that you’re more understanding of others, that you don’t lash out in anger, that you don’t make others feel bad about themselves.

It also usually follows that you’re more pleasant to be with because you don’t complain about every single thing. People don’t walk on eggshells around you.

So if you consider yourself a patient person, trust me on this—you’re likely a good person.

12) You don’t manipulate people to get what you want

You don’t “guilt trip”, gaslight, toy with other people’s emotions, or use other manipulative techniques  so that people will do what you want them to do.

You think people who do this are psychopaths and narcissists who just focus on themselves.

So when dealing with people—whether they’re your classmates, colleagues, or family—you try to truly consider their boundaries and you respect them. In fact, not only that. You think of what’s truly good for them instead of just focusing on how you can make them agree with you and do things for you.

You don’t like to deceive and manipulate people like you’re playing poker…because well, you’re simply not an asshole.

13) You always try to become better

The very obvious sign that you’re a good person (or you’re not as bad as you think you are) is that you’re reading this article.

You see, the ones who are 100% confident that they’re morally upright are usually the ones who aren’t.


Because those who are so sure they’re good don’t self-reflect and they won’t feel guilty for anything at all. In fact, they’ll just play victim and blame others.

Even if they’ve deeply hurt others or they’ve done something immoral, they’d just justify their deeds by saying “they pressured me to do it” or “I have no choice.”

You’re not this kind of person.

The fact that you’re not sure if you’re indeed “good” means that you have conscience…and this is something all good people have.

Last words

Soo…are you a good person?

If you’re like me and only have half of the traits in this list, then you’re not so bad.

The thing is that it’s not so easy to be good. It feels like you have to always do the right thing and one or two slip-ups can instantly make you bad.

But as long as you keep TRYING, you’re already much better than most people.

Nobody’s a complete angel, but we can all at least strive to become “imperfect” but decent human beings.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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