"The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity." - Proverbs 11:3 (NIV)
What is character? Dictionary.com gives several meanings: moral or ethical qualities; qualities of honesty, courage or the like; reputation. There are six pillars of character: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, Citizenship. I think the following anonymous quote explains it best: "Character is doing what's right when no body's looking." I want to break down the six pillars of character and see if I do these even when nobody is looking. Although, there's never a time when someone isn't looking. God is always watching me.
Trustworthiness - deserving of trust or confidence; dependable; reliable. Am I trustworthy? I'd like to think I am but I know there are times when I'm not. I've made promises in the past that I haven't kept. I made commitments that I've backed out on. Oh sure, when it's something I really want to do, I'm there! But, what about the times I've committed to do something I really didn't want to do in the first place? I can think of something right now. I promised my mom I'd study to take the manager's test for her care home. I don't really want to do that. It's not something that appeals to me. So, I've been putting it off, finding other things to do instead. Nothing important, mind you. Just stuff so I don't have to pick up the booklet, study it and take the test. I'm not worried about the test. I'm a good test taker. I'm just resistant to the whole idea of managing her home. But, I promised, and, in this instance, I haven't been trustworthy at all. "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." (Luke 16:10 NIV). God is watching me!
Respect - esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered a manifestation of a personal quality or ability. Am I a respecter of persons, myself included? I'm not just talking about adults, either. Children deserve to be respected. I can't say I'm always respectful of others, especially children or those who I disagree with. I know I'm not always respectful of myself. My sense of self-worth isn't the best sometimes. If it was, I would know how much God loves me, no matter what, and that He will forgive me everything if I am truly repentant. I would watch what I eat, exercise and take better care of myself. I would be able to see others the way that Jesus sees them - as worthy of love and kindness. If I want to earn the respect of those I have contact with, then I must show also show respect to them. No matter who they are or what their circumstances may be. I desire to show my respect for God by living in order to please Him. "So that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." (1 Thessalonians 4:12 NIV). God is watching me!
Responsibility - involving accountability, reliability and dependability. This goes right along with trustworthiness. I must take responsibility for my actions, my thoughts and my words. If I hurt someone, intentionally or unintentionally, it's my responsibility to ask for forgiveness. If I make a decision to eat a doughnut instead of a salad, it's my responsibility to do a little more exercise that day. If I make a promise or commitment, it's my responsibility to see it through. I AM NOT A VICTIM! Everything that happens in my life, I am responsible for. It's because of choices I have made or will make that the things in my life happen. Think about that. "Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load." (Galatians 6:4-5 NIV). God is watching me!
Fairness - free from bias or injustice; evenhandedness. Whoa...tough one here. I've always told my kids...life isn't fair. And, it's true. However, that doesn't give me the right to treat anyone else unfairly. It doesn't give me the right to be judgemental or hateful or angry. It doesn't give me the right to be partial or show favoritism to those I like over those I don't. It doesn't give me the right to wish revenge on anyone who has wronged me. Being fair - nonjudgmental, loving, kind, evenhanded - is something God does for me on a daily basis. How can I do any less toward others? "Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly." (Leviticus 19:15 NIV). God is watching me!
Caring - to be concerned or solicitous; have thought or regard. My compassion and empathy meter is set on low. I know this about myself and I pray about it every day. When I say it's low, I mean that, unlike other people I know, I don't always see the need to be caring until it's pointed out to me. For example - do I think to pray for others who are affected by war, famine, starvation, floods, drought, etc.? Not until someone says we should pray for these people! I'm not proud of it, believe me. If it's in my face, someone I know or a friend or family member knows, who is hurting, in need, grieving...I'm on it. I have compassion and empathy. I care. I'm praying and lifting them up to God. But, I don't think outside of my small little circle of life and that's what bothers me. This is an area of my character that I really need to pray about and be aware of. I want to care for others as I care for myself. "After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church." (Ephesians 5:29 NIV). God is watching me!
Citizenship - an individual viewed as a member of society; behavior in terms of the duties, obligations and functions of a citizen. I have duties as a citizen - to vote, to serve on jury duty, to get involved in my community plus many others. Do I do all that....yes, I can say I do. Being a citizen means I belong and I should be proud of the country I am a citizen of. I am proud to be American. I know around the world we are hated, looked down on, made fun of, hunted, persecuted.....but so was Jesus. I am even prouder to be a citizen of God's house, a person saved by the grace of Jesus. God desires is that everyone becomes a citizen of His house and, as such, it is my responsibility to tell others about His Son and the salvation that is so freely given and offers us citizenship into Heaven. That's a better citizenship than any we could ever find here on earth. "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household." (Ephesians 2:19 NIV). God is watching me.
God sees our true character, even if we can fool everyone else. He knows our darkest thoughts and deepest secrets. My intention is to become more aware of His presence in my life so that I will have the kind of character that is pleasing to Him. God is watching me!
"Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are, to some extent, a gift. Good character, by contrast, is not given to us. We have to build it piece by piece...by thought, choice, courage and determination." - John Luther
Amazing God, You know me inside and out. You know my deepest feelings. Help me live with integrity; to have character that pleases You. I want to be Your worthy servant and live according to Your instructions. Remind me continually that You are always near and watching me, Lord. May my words and actions be a testimony to You. In Jesus' name, Amen.