Character: When No One Is Looking

add_cosmic_orbs.jpgI suppose I have spoken often, both in classes and in sermon messages, about matters relating to the importance of character.  I have taught at various times series on "The Ten Commandments" and the "Sermon on the Mount."  Certainly when preaching or teaching from the prophets, I have talked a lot about character and ethics.


As important as that is, one often learns much about character not standing before hundreds of people speaking but in the quiet moments of life when one is faced with difficult, challenging, and tempting choices.


For example:

How do I behave when a driver cuts me off on the Interstate?  Does my behavior reflect that of a person in whom Christ is being formed?


How do I behave when I must choose between two very good options?  The only complication is that my wife prefers one and I prefer the other.  Does she see me as someone who usually figures out how to have his way?


How do I speak about others when they are not around?  Would they find pleasure in what I have said?  Or, would they be stunned by what I said?  Would they perhaps be stunned because I have never talked with them personally about these concerns?


How do I handle the financial commitments that I have made?  Many years ago, my mother worked for a Christian bookstore.  In those days, individuals could have their own personal charge accounts with that bookstore.  The bookstore would then send a bill to them at the end of the month.  I recall my mother expressing her disappointment that several ministers had past due bills, apparently ignoring them.


How do I behave around people of the opposite sex?  Would my wife be surprised or even hurt by my words or behavior?  What might my children think? 


Do I speak the truth?  Do I tell others what I really think?  Or, do I say one thing in front of one group and something else in front of another group?  Am I more concerned with being liked or with being faithful?

A number of years ago, our church was looking for a youth minister.  Various people were sending in resumes.  One resume in particular caught my attention.  It was well written.  This prospective youth minister had on his resume a number of things about his past, including a record of various ministry experiences.  As I read through this resume, it occurred to me that it was "puffed."  That is, these experiences were not actually what he purported them to be.  There were a number of these that were expressed in such a way as to create a heightened sense of importance and significance.  As I read through this resume, the distance seemed to increase between reality and what he was attempting to project.  


Character is not about perfection but intention.  No one is flawless.  We all blunder.  All of us need grace.  Yet, the issue of character is not one of perfect performance but of integrity.     

Who in your life has best modeled character?

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16 thoughts on “Character: When No One Is Looking

  1. Good post Jim.  Why is it so easy to be a Christian on Sunday and so hard when we get away from our Christian brothers and sisters?  Perhaps this is why the first century Christians met DAILY.  To answer the question you left at the end, my father most modeled character for me.  My father has made many hard choices in his life all of which were made with the intention of advancing his call by Christ to be a disciple in his family life, church life, social life, and work life.  Thanks for this post.

  2. Perhaps most Christians do fairly well when things are going okay, but when the unexpected hits us right between the eyes before we have a chance to analyze the situation, we may say or do something we shouldn’t. Driving in traffic is my weak spot; it’s a patience thing on my part, sometimes it seems like my vehicle has a bulls-eye painted on it, and everyone is aiming at my fenders.  I’s difficult to smile and show good character when someone is running one off the road; I continue to work on this problem… 🙂   

  3. Hmm…. who in my life has modeled character?
    Well, I’m thankful for a host of mentors, pastors, and my father.  I know for many, this list would not resonate with them, but I suppose I’ve been lucky.  I hope to be a pastor and father like them.  Thanks for the thoughts.

  4. Who in my life has best modeled character?  My parents, several aunts and uncles, as well as many other friends and relatives.  I have been greatly blessed.

  5. Although I barely knew Bill Johnson, we was an elder at our church but died not longer after we moved to Amarillo.  He was a business man with great financial acumen and had many different business interests.  At his memorial service I heard his best friend, Warlick Thomas, another elder make the comment…"it was hard being Bill’s attorney – he always wanted to give people too much."  That really resonated with me.
    Another example is my husband David.  He has such deep character and ethic – it is what makes him such an effective Executive Minister.

  6. Just recently I took the time to remember all those whose lives influenced mine in profound positive ways – I think it was in preparation for All Saint’s Sunday. There are numerous family members, particularly an uncle and aunt – who are already with the Lord. While it was mostly positive role models and mentors I cherished, I also remembered several people whose lives demonstrated to me how NOT to be and whose lives taught me valuable lessons. Good things to think on! 

  7. Dave,Good comment.  I do think that there is a sense in which many Christ-followers feel isolated and alone during the week and perhaps that has a lot to do with not really being a part of community which carries over into our Monday-Friday lives.Thanks.

  8. Larry,I relate to what you are saying.  It is difficult.  I have also so found that in such situations, my reactions often reveal to me something inside of me that I wish was not there.  Yet, sometimes in seeing what is inside me, I realize that some of this needs to be dealt with before Christ. Thanks for expressing something that so many of us can relate to.

  9. David,Thanks for your comment.  Sounds like you have been blessed to have had a number of people as good models.  How wonderful…

  10. Arlene,A great story about this elder.  What a tribute!And—-isn’t it wonderful to be able to say this about your husband who you know better than anyone else?

  11. Karin,I suppose most of have these people in our experience.  People who are stark reminders of what good characater is not.  Thanks.

  12. I am so grateful for the many people in my life who have modeled character and integrity in my life: pastors, teachers, youth group leaders, and managers in my workplace.
    I am now in a position where I’m challenged to a higher level of integrity in the process of leadership formation at my workplace, and every day I pray to become even more transparent, that what you see is what you get. To me, that’s the definition of integrity, that there is no inconsistency between the image that I project and who I really am. Thanks for this, Jim.

  13. Alison,Thanks.  I really do commend you on what you are attempting to do at work.  You are bringing such important values to work with you.

  14. Jim,Great message, my grandfather was a huge influence. He taught me that a man was only as good as his word. If he shook your hand and said he would do it, you never had to wonder if it would happen. I still hear his words to this day. Thanks!!