Sunday, May 31, 2009

What Clings Close: Our Character

Closer than any skill, profession or knowledge we acquire or undertake is the character that reveals our intrinsic attitude towards all things.

And in the same way, what God brings forth in us via our innate temperaments, we cannot change, but we can tweak the character, because it is morally situated.

Character can be determined via the following schema:

“As water (like a mirror) reflects the face: so…

- A person’s heart reflects the person” (NIV).

- One’s life reflects the heart” / others reflect your heart back to you” (TNIV).

- The heart of a man to a man” (Murphy).

- One human heart reflects another” (NRSV). –Proverbs 27:19.

All of these communicate a common truth; we get what we give. People mirror back to us what we’ve shown them. What we show people, by the manifestation of our behaviour, we are. It’s what we think about. It’s what drives us. It’s how we react. It’s something we can’t get away from; even though there are times we wish we could.

Our character sticks as close as anything and is only a little more removed than our temperament--what ‘nature’ gave us. Character is at least a little more ‘nurture’ related; self-nurture at that.

Given that people can at times know us even better than we can know ourselves (for better or for worse), there is ideal impetus to want to improve morally, for moral development is character development.

This is to live the examined life.

For, also, how are we to truly know others if we don’t truly know ourselves?

And knowing ourselves intelligently i.e. intrapersonal intelligence, is certainly a key to all other forms of relational intelligence. The better we know ourselves and the more ruthless we are in jettisoning moral failures, the tidier and more robust and fruitful our characters can be. This is a worthy goal in any life.

For we deceive ourselves if we think we can create and maintain a relational fa├žade. We cannot. People are intelligent in these ways and they’ll find out about us (the true “us”) sooner or later.

Do we care?

It seems the need for character development picks itself in the lives of leaders, politicians, pastors, teachers, police and the list goes on.

No matter whom we are, if we wish to live a good, enjoyable, satisfying life, character development is a worthy goal, worth all the effort to achieve.

Like so many improvement strategies, character development at its base--its central core--can only really be about two things:

1. Achieving an acute awareness of what stays and what must go; and,

2. Being courageous enough to commit to a plan of action to see it through.

Character sticks to us as good as chewing gum in hair. Our reputations are evidence of this.

Once we understand this and determine that it’s important what other people think of us, we’re motivated to address our deficiencies. It’s not until we start, however, that we see with incredulity the workload ahead. It’s the start of a burgeoning lifelong journey.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step. Everyone wins when we work on “us,” notwithstanding ourselves. What clings close can be both hardy and attractive.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

No comments: