Tag Archive: character


“It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.” [Jack Handey]

Ah, i love me some Jack Handey, but as i continue to look at some different aspects that define the character of a person, i’m not quite sure that would be the best approach.

However, when we hear the word “Sorry!” coming out of our mouth, we should always be asking ourselves one key question:

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i imagine, to some great extent, that uttering the phrase, “I’m sorry” is a natural response to being caught in some kind of wrongdoing or hurt-causing and we should always at some point, really take a moment to pause and think about how sorry we actually are.

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There is a difference between saying the words, “I’m sorry!” and actually being sorry. Maybe a word like repentance is more helpful because it carries the idea of an about turn or a change in direction. Is my action following my wording going to back up my wording? This links to closely to the post i wrote on your actions needing to back up your words and the phrase, “Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear the words you speak.” 

Trying to move away from false knee-jerk apologising would be a good start in this. Another quote i read on this went along the lines of encouraging you not to give an excuse when you apologise. If there is a reason for your action or if something was misunderstood and an explanation feels necessary then it might be more helpful and meaningful to separate the two. When you say the words, “I’m sorry, but…” it probably starts to feel about as believable as a good old, “I’m not racist, but…” [almost always followed by a racist statement of note!] An “I’m sorry but I really shouldn’t have to be sorry and here are the reasons why” kind of thing.

So maybe figuring out what a valid apology is. Maybe it is simply, “I’m sorry that you were hurt” or “I’m sorry that your expectation was not missed” or something that acknowledges the pain of the other person.

A QUICK RECAP

# Am i genuinely sorry? Am i seeing my fault in this? Am i owning whatever was my responsibility in this situation?

# Am i apologising in a way that doesn’t sound like it is coming off as an excuse which really negates the whole apology?

# Am i planning on changing my actions or doing something to make this thing better or giving recompensation where necessary?

[This last point a particular touchy point for most white South Africans i imagine – of course we are sorry for apartheid and everything that went with it, but we don’t particularly want that to cost us anything.]

KICKING THE LIE IN THE FACE

i remember reading this statement as a child, probably in one of those “Love is…” cartoon strips that were so popular then:

‘Love means never having to say you’re sorry.’

Urgh, what a load of raiSIN-infested bollocks! But really. It might sound like a good idea. And can be truth if you are pursuing the idea of saying alone not being helpful. But if the idea is that you never have to own your crap or change your direction or back pedal and make up for something jerky you did, then it really is an unfortunate greeting card and nothing more. Love is being committed to serving the other person and grabbing hold of responsibility for actions or words even when that is uncomfortable or painful for you, because you know that you were in the wrong. When this is coming from both parties, then strong relationships start to form.

And a whole lot more, I’m sure, but for now, just the opportunity to reflect on the idea that being a person of character means taking responsibility in the best and most helpful and healing of ways when, intentionally or not, you mess up and hurt someone else.

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[To return to the beginning of this series on Character, click here]

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charactersilence

 

As i have been looking at some aspects of a person’s life that i see as defining them as being a person of good character, the last two posts i did focused on Living out the Words you Speak and Speaking out the Words you LiveI see both of those as powerful indicators of the character you have as a person and both areas that are good to focus on or invite the accountability of others into if you are trying to become a better person.

But a third related aspect comes to mind when it comes to speaking, and that is being able to realise the times and moments when you shouldn’t. Sometimes offering someone the gift of silence can be the very best thing you can do.

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Sometimes all that people need is your presence, to know that you showed up and are there for them and if they need to talk and get something off their chest or if they need to share their emotions [be it grief or anger or confusion or despair] that you are there to give them the opportunity to do just that. You aren’t going to challenge or rebuke or give answers or make light of whatever it is they are going through, but you are going to be a someone who cares enough to be around.

i do think, however, that this is not a blanket rule and so it requires a certain amount of wisdom and often a large amount of relationship. Because some people really do want the words in some of the same situations and so this requires a certain amount of knowing to be able to pick the moments when you should speak and when you should listen and also when you should just be.

BE SURE TO TASTE YOUR WORDS BEFORE YOU SPIT THEM OUT

I used this quote with the last piece in terms of advising us when we need to speak what we live. But they apply equally well here. Sometimes you will take a moment to taste the words you are about to spit out and realise that they taste bitter or foul and so to be a person of good character in that moment is to hold them back, or swallow them and keep the bad taste to yourself.

Sometimes someone realises that they are jerk and don’t need yet another person confirming it to them.

Sometimes someone is painfully aware they have made a mistake and does not need your enthusiastic announcing of the fact.

Sometimes, just keep them to yourself.

Proverbs 18.21 21 The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Or ye olde, ‘If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.’ [which doesn’t necessarily apply always, because sometimes we do need to speak out against injustice and cruelty and more, but it is a good default go-to setting for those times when we are not sure].

A last point to consider is that we live in a world of noise and activity and instant gratification and speed. I believe it can be so helpful and healing for a person to be able to step away from that for a moment, for an hour, for a day or even longer, and embrace the silence. To not need the noise/activity/connection. To be able to switch off and unplug and step away and be still and know and meditate and remember and consider and dream…

Let Silence be something you carry around with you, and bring out when necessary and helpful, both for yourself and for others. 

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[For the next post in this series looking at Character, focusing on saying and being “Sorry!” click here]

Words have power!

If you don’t think that’s true, try being hit in the face by a thesaurus.

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In the previous post in this series on different aspects of characteri took a look at the power and importance of living out your words. If there is no action, the words tend towards meaningless and ineffectual. i spoke about the phrase: “What you do speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.”

In terms of character definition, i think action is of vital importance. A lot of character stands and falls on what you do.

But that does not mean for a second that words are not important.

“In words are seen the state of mind and character and disposition of the speaker.” – Plutarch

i think it goes even deeper than that though.

Who you speak to can speak volumes about your character. Jesus was an incredible example of this as He constantly reached out to people in society who were considered “less than” by everyone else. So from women and children to the Samaritans (who were traditional enemies of the jews) to outsiders such as lepers, drunks and prostitutes, even simply His choosing to engage with them was like a deafening roar of contradiction to the hypocracy and legalism the people were used to, all too often, from the religious leaders of the day.

How you speak can at times be so much powerful than the words being spoken as the attitude behind and delivery of the words will often communicate what is truly at work in the person speaking them. A disingenuous apology, a reluctant promise or a hesitant “I love you” all give fairly obvious testimony to that.

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What you speak is pretty self explanatory. The words we speak have extreme power both ways – to lift up or to break down. Words can really transform people in the best of ways, helping them believe in themselves, spurring them on to greatness or creativity, and challenging them to live life more fully to the full. But they can also distressingly mangle and break down and bruise and wound and cause self-doubt and fear and worse. The words we speak to people can be a strong definer of the character we possess. And as effective as a well placed apology can be, words can be forgiven, but they can not be easily forgotten. Once spoken, it is impossible to take words back.

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Proverbs 18 sums it up well: 

21 The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit. 

What fruit is your tongue contributing to?

[To return to the start of this Character series, click here]

 

whatyoudo

 

One aspect that strongly defines your character is whether the person you actively are backs up the person you talk yourself up to be.

Another way i have seen that quote above written is like this: What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.

And it is completely true. Another area that this touches on is that of consistency. Is the person you speak yourself to be also the person you are in the day to day of life?

So if you are someone who talks big about the disparity between rich and poor and the need for the wealthy to give up their wealth and look after those who are in need and how everyone at your church needs to be involved in the local homeless shelter… but then you live a completely luxurious life and never spend any time with the poor. People are going to take away the lived out message over the spoken one.

LIVING OUT YOUR SPEAK

In the letter of 1 John in the Bible, chapter 3, it says it beautifully like this:

18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Maybe a good way to do this would be to use our voices when we are talking about stories we have been involved with [and also sharing the stories of other people we know] as opposed to things we think we should do. So if you don’t have a story, go and do a thing that will result in a story [don’t do it to have a story – do it cos it is an amazing thing to do] and then inspire others with the stories of real live transformative events.

A second important truth is to be intentional about updating the stories we tell. If the story of the last amazing thing we did is a ten year old story, maybe it’s time we stepped down from the speaking circuit and went back to living out the stories for a while. i know i am tired of telling the old stories – i am ready to be living some new ones [and am with Common Change which is great, and you can be too!] and so constantly need to be aware of this.

How are you doing in this? Is this an area you maybe need to work on? 

[For the next post looking at the words we speak, click here]

 

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How do you judge good character?

 The idea or concept of ‘Character’ and ‘A person of good character’  seems, to me, to be a bit of subjective or elusive in terms of definition.

And so, instead of trying to come up with any kind of definitive definition [is there such a thing as a non-definitive definition?] of what i mean when i talk about a person of character, i thought it might be more helpful to describe some aspects that i [and possibly some others, and hopefully also you] think of when i think of the idea.

I started by suggesting that having a more positive than negative presence on social media [and in life in general] was one way of assessing character.

CONSISTENCY [aka BE WHO YOU ARE] 

For me, something that is a huge aspect of character is the trait of consistency. 

Now this doesn’t necessarily mean being the same way in different circumstances and with different people, but it does mean being the same person.

You won’t behave the same way with the CEO of a big company as you would when doing a family dinner or as you would when hanging out with a group of your mates. So I’m not saying that. What I am strongly saying is that in terms of the person you are, you will maintain that in the different groups of people and contexts, not trying to come across as one thing with one person and a different thing with another. That would be the term two-faced, which is the opposite of character. And in fact is closely linked to the word hypocracy which derived, as you all know from the Greek word ὑπόκρισις (hypokrisis) which was used to describe an actor [someone pretending to be someone else].

For me, Jesus Christ was such a great example of this. He definitely carried Himself differently when addressing the Pharisees or speaking to the crowds than when He was merely hanging with His disciples or having one on one encounters with people. But who He was didn’t change. He didn’t change His message or demeanour to impress the crowds. He stayed consistent in terms of who He was and the message He was delivering, but changed the style and way of speaking to be relevant to whoever His audience was.

Be who you are. Trust that that is enough and if it not then change who you are, not how you present yourself. But Dr Seuss said it well:

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What are some of the things you think defines character?

[for the next part on character looking at living out what you speak, click here]

waldo

How do you judge good character?

As i have been thinking about the idea of ‘Character’ and ‘A person of good character’  it seems to be a bit subjective or elusive in terms of definition.

One of the dictionary definitions Uncle Google came up with was ‘the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.’

But the problem with that definition is that it uses the word moral [which in itself, these days, seems to be a subjective term] which Uncle G describes as ‘principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.’

And so, instead of trying to come up with any kind of definitive definition [is there such a thing as a non-definitive definition?] of what i mean when i talk about a person of character, i thought it might be more helpful to describe some aspects that i [and possibly some others, and hopefully also you] think of when i think of the idea.

This could be a multi-parted post and as i suggested, instead of trying to find ‘the answer’, i am rather wanting to explore a few ideas and concepts that might give us a clue and you can decide out loud in the comments section whether or not you agree with me. These are in no way in any kind of order of more or less importance but simply as ideas come to mind, i will look at them and invite your opinion and please do give it.

SOCIAL NETWORKING POSITIVITY

I was alerted to the fact [again!] today that a LOT of Facebook statuses tend to be negative – people complaining about the weather [too hot or too cold or too rainy or too snowful] or moaning because their sports team lost [usually carefully disguised as a rant against the biased ref] or a whole bunch of other things.

This made me think of my own. Do i tend towards being more positive in outlook or more negative? And what message do my social networks carry about me in that way?

And positivity or negativity are both highly contagious. Hang around with either type of people continuously and you will find yourselves likely to start sounding the same…

Maybe a good character check when it comes to Social Networkings is subtracting my negative/complainy/dissatisfied with someone/something messages from all the positive/life-giving/gratitude ones and seeing if i can come up with a positive number? How would you do on this?

A few months ago i started removing some of the constantly negative voices from my The Twitterer feed and it has done me the world of good. I am not talking about people who speak prophetically into a broken system and call for change, but simply those who always seem to be moaning or complaining and not offering any solutions or seldom focusing on the good and the great. Same with Facebook – if someone is constantly negative i eventually turn down the frequency of their involvement in my newsfeed.

i would suggest that the ability to be positive and hopeful and see good or the possibility of change, even in the most difficult and trying of circumstances, is a strong indicator of character.

i would love to hear your thoughts on how character can be defined for you…

[For the next post dealing with consistency, click here]

these are a series of posts i am sharing that i have taken from a series called ‘How to Love your Woman/Man better’ from a while back and also a series titled ‘One way to Love your spouse better’ that i ran more recently [with the input of some friends] – there are many incredible gems here that can help you as you look to contribute to a healthy and thriving marriage and i hope you will find them useful and if so, please feel free to share and pass on…

Arguing Well

The Defining of Love

Small Intentional Sacrifices

Verbal Blessing

Halting the Movement of the Sun

Amnesia

Choosing This Day

Saying It

When my “yes” sounds like a “NO!”

doing the next right thing [Dalene Reyburn]

my beautiful wife Valerie [tbV] wrote a couple of thoughts on how to love your man better and so i thought these would be good to include here as they have a distinctly different flavour:

How to love your man better – “Just love him…”

How to love your man better – “Respond to his character”

How to love your man better – “Be Nice”

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