A sarcastic use of the phrase, as most people believe that the difficult events in our lives contribute the most to our character and personality. Sadly, pyschologists would tend to agree; Not for the better in many cases.
A:" For my BROTHER!!!! (Sniff)"
B:"Well . . . It builds character, something like that. . . "
A:"Oh, go kiss a walrus!"
Usually used by people who consider themselves benevolent authority figures.
similar to what won't kill you makes you stronger
prison builds character
"The boys may not like going camping in the Sahara Desert but it's a good character building activity"
Killing your cat of 13 years may be gross, but it is something that has to be done and it builds character.
dad, "you do not need heater. wear a coat to bed, it builds character"