When we think about an ethical person we think about someone who has character. One can look up lists of virtues by which we define character, but at their best those are partial lists. When we think about someone having strong character, the list of positive traits seems almost endless. Yet when we think about people of character, we think about the whole person and what that person represents.
Sometimes we say that person is a character. Most often when we say it like that, it is not meant in a positive sense. The likely intention was to say that person is eccentric or different. The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Rome that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance character and character produces hope. What is this character trait or quality that we use to describe people? In particular, what is this character that produces hope?
Looking back to the previous blog entry, integrity is a component of character. The kind of integrity that engenders trust. A person who can be trusted brings hope to those around him in a world where trust is such a rare commodity. It boggles the mind to think about all the laws that have been written to build fences because we don’t trust people. Even something as simple as the open meetings regulations, when violated by an offline conversation or email draws the attention of the press with cries of foul play and distrust of the people involved. We live in a world where the worst possible ulterior motives are inferred upon well meaning people. We have become a society in which we have lost hope in heart and soul of our neighbors, whom we are to love as much as we love ourselves.
Solomon said we should listen to our father’s instruction and should not forget our mother’s training because they will be like jewelry adorning your neck and a wreath of honor around your head. There are words of wisdom and positive behavioral patterns that should be ingrained in young people as they are growing up. The time for character building is when our children are at home.
In his book, “Courageous Leadership,” Bill Hybels talked on the subject of hiring the right people. Initially, he looked first and foremost for competent people, then he examined their character qualifications, being somewhat forgiving for minor flaws under the assumption that he would be able to work with the person to correct any flaws that might be identified. Competence was the key to any hiring decision. Over time he learned that, in fact he had the two qualities reversed. Character flaws in a person in their mid-thirties to early forties, were nearly impossible to correct. Shortcomings in competence could be handled through training and education.
Thought and behavior patterns are set at a very early age. It is unlikely that, short of a life transforming embracing of the Holy Spirit, anyone might significantly alter thought and behavior patterns set in the heart early in a person’s life. Our default responses will be those we learned in our homes. Paul, writing to the church at Pilippi, talked about humility of heart and that we ought to think about such things as whatever is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.
Think about a culture where leaders led out of humility and focused their leadership on the pursuit of wisdom, were committed to telling the truth, were morally upright, who drew people to unity rather than being divisive using inflammatory language, and the list goes on. Such a leader will show strength of character and inspire hope whether it is a father, mother, first line manager, executive, or team member being a positive role model to peers and superiors.
Who comes to your mind as a person of strong character? Is there someone whose life patterns you would like to emulate? Are you one of those people that others see as a role model? Think about it. Are there some things that need to change? Could a mentor help you find that path? What kind of people do you hang with? It’s often said that we’re known by the company we keep. Paul said, “Bad company corrupts good character.”
Enough for one day. More on ethics, integrity and character to come.