“Dear friends, you are foreigners and strangers on this earth. So I beg you not to surrender to those desires that fight against you. Always let others see you behaving properly, even though they may still accuse you of doing wrong. Then on the day of judgment, they will honor God by telling the good things they saw you do.” – 1 Peter 2:11-12 (CEV).
“It builds character,” is a phrase you have heard or even said on more than one occasion in your life. Typically we throw out that phrase when we face hard times or difficult challenges.
In the dark ages, character development for medieval monks took place in castles of stone and dank cellars. Their daily life was dedicated to worship, reading and manual labor. They had to attend church daily, read from the Bible for several hours, do private prayer and meditation. Their daily work consumed most of the day. Yes, those things will probably build character, but is that how we should build character today? Building character today does not happen in isolation behind closed doors; character development happens in the daily grind of life. It is in everyday life where your relationship with God and your character will be challenged and tested. Your character is on display in the Publix parking lot, during meetings, in that marital squabble and it will certainly be tested when you come home from work, kick off your shoes and step on a lego on your way to the kitchen for a snack.
We have to be careful not to confuse character with reputation. Reputation is what others think you are while character is the person you really are. Character is not built overnight; it is developed through a process involving experience, hard work, and learning from past mistakes as you seek to be more Christlike. Christlikeness calls for deliberate change. It won’t come naturally at the beginning, and the steps you take to get to that point require difficult decisions and actions that run contrary to instinct. Breaking bad habits and replacing them with good ones is no easy task, and neither is replacing sinful attitudes, conduct, and actions with godly ones. There are habits of mind, body, imagination, speech, and more that we’ll need to unlearn in order to make way for new habits that need to be learned.
For example, if we’ve been naturally selfish, breaking the habit of this character trait requires a change in the way we are. We have to fight against our natural selfish attitudes by making conscious decisions to be generous, to not demand that things go our way, to in fact go out of our way to let others have their way. Such a change requires deliberate, intentional action, but over time, our tendency to think only of ourselves and what we want will diminish, and we will become more sensitive to and aware of the needs of others. We will become more Christlike in this area.
As His child, you have received His nature and nurture. He has called you to Himself and has named you His child. Now live worthy of the calling you have received by reflecting His character to the world around you.
- How much time each week do you spend cultivating your character?
- How important is character in terms of relationships?
- What can you do this week to improve your character?