People strive, throughout life, to build strong personal characters, traits that reflect their purpose, passions, and values. Yet, as people who would like to build a strong character, we find it difficult. The difficulty lies in our resistance to the very circumstances that would lead us to grow.
This article will provide insights into the following questions: How does character differ from conduct? How does personal character lead to the growth of spiritual character? Why is a strong character important? How can we build a strong and lasting character that will have a positive influence on the lives of others as well as our own life?
How does character differ from conduct?
Simply stated, character lies within us, and conduct is action reflecting our inner qualities and level of development. Consider the following quotes by theologian E.M. Bounds:
"Conduct is what we do; character is what we are.
Conduct is the outward life; character is the life unseen, hidden within, yet evidenced by that which is seen.
Conduct is external, seen from without; character is internal--operating within.
Character is the state of the heart; conduct is its outward expression.
Character is the root of the tree; conduct is the fruit it bears."
How does personal character lead to the growth of spiritual character?
Character, as we usually think of it, is a temporary collection of personality traits that we develop during our time on earth. We build character with each choice, and it reflects our deepest values through our actions. Our personality, with all of its brain-stored character traits will end when our physical life is completed.
At the spiritual level, we have a much broader character that can also grow; and, unlike the character of human personality, it can continue to grow stronger eternally. It is by handling the challenges of life in ways that make character strong, that we also grow
Why is a strong character important?
A strong character in daily life is a positive influence upon others. However, our character also influences our own lives, often unseen, moment by moment, for our inner state determines our actions, attitudes, and ultimate growth.
Emerson once wrote, "The force of character is cumulative." He was referring not only to the influence of character upon others, but of the expansion created in one's own spirit—in that "state of the heart" that E. M. Bounds mentioned. The development of personal character allows for the development of spiritual character. Our spiritual character can also become a lasting character if we accept the invitation to learn.
How can we build a strong and lasting character?
Here are ten examples of actions that build a strong and lasting character...
1. Practice patience when those around you are hurried.
2. Act with faith and diligence when others show mistrust or lack of commitment.
3. Be gentle when you meet with cruelty and harsh temperament.
4. Be courteous, even when others do not show courtesy.
5. Give generously to those who have nothing to give.
6. Communicate peace to those who are saddened or anxious.
7. Express gratitude for every experience and person you have known.
8. Act with self-control when dealing with those who are out of control.
9. Be encouraging to those who are discouraged.
10. Act with self-discipline, even when it is difficult to take correct actions.
This list could continue. The necessary actions will be different for each individual and will present some very important feedback for his or her inner work.
These actions may often seem very difficult. Their level of difficulty for each of us is a reflection—for our benefit—of our inner level of character development. The situations in which these actions are called for are those situations we must experience as continuing changes and challenges designed to teach us about ourselves. They invite us to begin to develop traits such as patience, faith, generosity, gratitude, and self-control. As we begin to allow these qualities to unfold within the heart, our conduct will naturally reflect outwardly those inner qualities.
All life experiences invite us to grow in spirit. In each circumstance, God's will is working to teach us about the ultimate state of love from which he created us to be unique individuals. May you experience the peace and love in His gift of a strong and lasting character.
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