Sunday, August 14, 2016
Character and Choices
The other day I ran across someone who was described by a single word. You know the kind of statements. “Oh yeah, that’s Fred, he’s a realtor.” “Hi, I’m Joan. I’m Hawaiian.” “Here comes Julie, she’s a single mom.” “I just met a guy named Arnie. He’s divorced.” “There’s Joseph. He’s an Aggie.” “Helen is a really nice gal”
I’m not sure why we do it, but for some reason we like to be able to tag people. We do it in lots of ways. “Seahawks fan.” “Chemistry teacher.” “Avid golfer.” “Great cook.” “Mother of three.” “Texan.” “Catholic.” “A really honest guy.” There are lots of them.
Some are based on what we do, either for a living or in our spare time. Some are based on skin color or geographic region. Some relate to our character and some to our beliefs. But if you could select how you were identified, or were to select areas that identify yourself, what would you most want thosse things to be? Sometimes what we WANT those things to be is a long way from how we actually act.
I have observed that in the extremes of life, in those times when we are most severely tested, the core of who we are often reveals itself.
It is in those moments that the real us can be discovered, by ourselves and others. Some would say that in those extreme times is when we cannot be held accountable, when we are likely to do things we would NEVER do otherwise. Perhaps that is true. On the other hand, perhaps it is true that in those moments our guard is down, our self-control disabled and we discover who we really are. Probably it is a little of both.
Divorce is one of those times.
I have known of individuals divorcing whose persona is that of a “good Christian,” but who manipulated finances and lied about assets to hide them from the court and spouse. So much for being a good Christian. You might think this is self-preservation, but I have seen it manifest itself in very vengeful ways, even accepting undeserved payments that were known to be wrong. For others, it becomes a time when restraint and caution is thrown to the wind and “anything goes”, and behaviors one would never have expected to see in the individal now are released and bubble the surface.
Now, lest I sound all negative, I have also known others who, in the times of most severe testing set just the opposite example. These individuals choose to be honest, even though they know it will cost them to do so. They choose not to compromise, standing firm by their convictions. When others sink to their worst selves, these individuals rise to their best and surprise even themselves.
I don’t think these things are accidental. Instead, I believe we nurture one aspect of our being or another. I believe that what comes out in these times is actually a manifestation of what we really do hold to be most important about who we are, the values that we have developed and cherished and grown into our lives during the less stressful times.
Or, if it goes the other way, then it is often the revelation that we have NEGLECTED to nurture the positive aspects and character traits in our lives, to develop the godly character that honors Christ.
In the good times of your life, you either sow the seeds of high moral character, or we let the gardens of our hearts get overgrown with weeds and the refuse of our lives. If you are in hard times and not liking what you are learning about yourself, then let those learnings be a guide to the growth areas you will want to pursue in better times. If you are in better times, then this could be a good time o be investing in the characteristics you want to have as the core values of your life, the ones you would like people to use to describe you. These things don’t come automatically, or by accident in life; they are the result of choices we make day by day. Kind of like that famous passage where Moses challenges the people of Israel in preparation for their new life as God’s people:
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,” (Deuteronomy 30:19)
The same kind of challenge that Joshua, Moses’s successor, also presented to the people in his time of leadership:
“…choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
What are the choices you are making these days?