Character is influenced by the family we were raised in, the religious influences we grew up under, and the communities in which we developed. We cannot help but be influenced by the values that we grew up around; however, we are not a finished product. Character can grow in our lives making us better and better over time. Even our failures can help us on the road to maturity, because they help us know what not to do or how to work through difficulty.
Many leaders have fallen in our world, causing weakness and distrust by most people in our society. Due to the growing distrust there has been a desire for authenticity in our society. People hunger to see real people leading them in life, and to learn from their real experiences. Unfortunately the downside is that there has been a growth in a cynical mindset, which causes some to believe that no one can ever really grow to real maturity in character. This mindset can lead to people who question the depth of our own ability to ever mature in life.
Character is the major building block of our relationships. True success is not found in the size of our ministry, the fame of our name, or in the fortune of our bank accounts. True success is living well in the plan that God has for us, and living well with those whom God has put into our lives. Our relationships are highly dependent upon the maturing of our character, and living well in our world.
Many of us read the Bible, self-help books, leadership development books, and attend seminars to help us know better how we should live and work in this world. However, character is far more than knowing how to live in this world, or knowing how relationships with God and others should be. We can read and study all we want, but as one old saying goes "the longest eighteen inches in the world is the distance from the head to the heart."
I can desire to be a baker, but that doesn't make me a baker. I can read books about the great bakers of the world, but I will not be a baker. I can even study recipe books, and even purchase all the ingredients, but I will not be a baker. I can only be a baker if I actually bake something. I will likely not be a good baker until I have made many attempts at baking. This reminds me of when my grandmother taught me to make bread. I went to her home and spent an afternoon learning from her how to make her wonderful home-made bread. I added the first two ingredients and then watched her make the rest. I never learned to make bread, because she took over and made it for me.
Character is developed through the challenges which often cause us to dig deep into our lives, and choose the right thing over the easy thing. Character shows in the choices we make in daily decisions based in the Christ-like development of every part of our lives. Our character will show in how we choose in situations like the following, which arise every day of our lives.
- How will we react if the clerk at the grocery store misses several items when ringing us up?
- How will we tip the stressed out waitress who brings us our food?
- What will we do if we are offered a shortcut in our work, which may shortchange the customer but increases our pay?
- Will I choose to follow the regulations and structures of change within the church or business I am a part of, or will I choose to bend the rules to my own desires or whims?
Grace for your journey,
Daniel G. Shipton