Character matters. It just does.
I know the world around us lives differently, and it can feel impossible to find examples of character that are worthy, but it is vital.
This has been a hard week. Elections, naked people, riots and accusations flourish with momentum that destroy the humanity in us. Don’t let any of it take profit in your life.
You don’t have to sell all that is beautiful in you to the lowest bidder.
Words like character and integrity get bantered about endlessly, but I want you to know specifically what your father and I believe about them, why they count and which is more important.
Character is the essence of who you are. It is your nature. You can change it with hard work, new information, getting some help when needed, and habits.
Integrity is the wholeness of your life. It comes from the same root word that integer, a whole number, comes from. The integrity of a building indicates its complete ability to stand. To live a life of integrity means your life will look the same no matter which angle you examine it from. Some people refer to integrity as a high moral standard, but we believe wholeness fits it better.
Pursue character first.
Adolf Hitler had integrity. He was a maniacal, anti-semitic in public and private. Having integrity if you are evil is not to be admired.
When building character you have our permission and our encouragement to fake it until you make it. Sincerity is over rated. Doing the right thing insincerely beats honestly being a schmuck every time.
You don’t feel like going to church? Go anyway. Good things are often a discipline.
Recently at Bible Study the leader asked about a habit we’re trying. We make gratitude lists as we eat dinner, on 4×6 cards, each person’s thanks in a different color. “How do you keep it from being rote?” she inquired.
Let me tell you the same thing I told her: I couldn’t care less if it is rote. Walk through the drudge if you have to but good habits are immensely better than bad habits. Being grateful, without meaning it, is still more pleasant than genuine griping.
Every time. Not even close.
Let me tell you what I pray for you and your character, so that you will know what I want you to look for in others…
Fail well. I am exhausted of the conversations implying failure is bad. OF COURSE WE WANT TO SUCCEED ALL THE TIME. Who doesn’t? But it is far worse to be so afraid of failing you never try anything worthwhile.
Failure is guaranteed in a life that has value. What do you do with failures? Do you fail the same way at the same thing over and over again? Face it, change and try something new.
Do you take responsibility for your failures? I cannot encourage that enough. I believe it is the fastest way to heal…face it, own it, apologize when appropriate and move on better for the experience.
Think. This is predicated on a willingness to learn. Better yet, a love of learning.
We see this in each of you. It takes different forms…research, grades, learning the basics of life…but all three of you have a tremendous capacity to seek information. Keep at it.
THEN use that information to inform your thoughts and beliefs.
Your dad and I believe that pursuit of knowledge that is true will always lead you back to God. We are not afraid of facts or science or history.
There is this implication sometimes, that to change your opinion is weak. Don’t buy that lie. It is foolish to think we always have all the information there is, and ridiculous to stay cemented in old beliefs in the face of a new reality.
Let me give you a personal example. I am fiercely pro-life. As the presidency bounces back from one party to another, one of the first things usually done is funding for international abortions. My straight-forward mind could not even HANDLE such a thing. WHY WOULD WE FUND ABORTIONS IN OTHER COUNTRIES I would chide.
Then I read Half The Sky and wept. My little brain in my safe little world cannot fathom what other women go through every day. Funding abortions is an over-simplified term for funding women’s health, and if it could stop some of the things I read, it should be done. At very least, it should be talked about in depth with all of the details and ramifications faced directly, before a decision is made.
Aborting a baby that is healthy and growing is not the same thing as helping a woman whose baby has died and is now rotting inside her. But the funding is the same.
So I changed my mind.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Beauty is all around.
Purposely filling your mind and life with beauty will make you acutely aware of the beauty in others. Adding beauty to others’ lives is always a good thing…think about it. Do you want to make the world around you ugly? Then don’t fill yourself with smutty things. There is no value in it.
Cook good food. Buy flowers. Be funny, which you do so well. Listen to harmonies and melodies and how they complement each other. Go to museums. Appreciate work that others have labored on. Realize that your taste does not equal the best.
Pursue radical humility. Modesty is lacking in our world.
(Where is the State The Obvious prize?)
People don’t need to see every inch of your body. Save SOMETHING for marriage.
But modesty and humility are not just about nakedness and clothing. They are about the everyday acknowledgement of God and others.
I have sat at many-a-Bible-Study and listened to well meaning silver haired women say that if you think you are humble, you have guaranteed you are not humble. I am not sure how helpful that is.
Let me tell you, as your mom, what I think…
It’s okay to work hard and feel like you did well on something. I just want you to frame it, in conversation and perspective, with all the people who helped you to do well. Who taught you that thing? Who believed in you and your cause? How much applause was given along the way? Who did you watch and admire that showed you excellence? Where is God’s hand in your life?
The mere act of acknowledging and appreciating others opens you to humility.
FIGHT ARROGANCE with everything in you, but please don’t confuse that with being a doormat or convincing yourself you aren’t good at anything. Be humble enough to get help when you are lacking and to offer help when you have abundance.
Social media, politics, magazine covers, public schools and reality television can make you feel like character is irrelevant. That feelings and emotions outrank right and wrong. That is malarkey. You know it. Those who make that argument probably know it too, deep down.
Much of the vitriol is actually the bi-product of cognitive dissonance.
For you three, our precious kids, your dad and I want you to pursue character within a relationship with Jesus. Obviously. We have lived that as best we can, incredibly flawed and fallibly, but with enough consistency that you likely know it’s true. But if you search for character demanding Jesus from other people, we believe you will miss out on additional depth and beauty.
Live in a way that points people to the Lord. Live that shoulder to shoulder with people who won’t see it except through you. It makes things interesting.
And remember always that we love you madly, and overflow with pride whenever we think of you.