The notion of character has been on my mind a lot lately. What makes me who I am, and such. Is it my actions or beliefs? Am I defined by my circumstances, upbringing, genetic code, or aspirations? Can I change who I am, and if so to what degree?
One of my favorite quotes, which graced the whiteboard at my desk for nearly a year is this: “Crises don’t build character, they reveal it.” In other words, you can’t depend on tough times to strengthen your resolve. You have to work hard to prepare yourself for trouble before it reaches you.
Character cannot be summoned at the moment of crisis if it has been squandered by years of compromise and rationalization. The only testing ground for the heroic is the mundane. The only preparation for that one profound decision that can change a life, or even a nation, are those hundreds of half-conscious, self-defining, seemingly insignificant decisions made in private. – Dan Coates
In his letter to the Roman church, Paul implied the same thing:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)
I appreciate what Paul says: that character is produced by endurance. That word – endurance – implies that we do not grow all at once. Certainly, we’re often tested by emergencies – great big, scary moments after which nothing seems the same – but it’s the foundation we’ve built (or failed to build) over the weeks and months and years preceding that moment that determines how we’ll fare.
Don’t waste time. Don’t wait on tomorrow to decide to grow. Start preparing now, and rest assured that your next crisis (which will come, I guarantee) will not put you to shame.