As we have talked about in the past, character is “who you are when no one is watching.” I believe we are tempted to behave differently when a person of authority or influence is not present. Many times, it is when there is an obvious temptation that our character comes into question. For example, finding an envelope with five one hundred dollar bills, or using someone else’s research for a school project. These are the bigger moments, in which our character is tested. But, what about the smaller moments, the more innocent temptations. What do you do when you hear someone gossiping and telling an untruth? Do you just listen? Add to the story? Walk away? Or, do you speak to the untruth? Those moments are small, but they have a tendency to add up. What we do in those moments can start to erode how we look at ourselves. Most of us know that to take something that we know is not ours, effects how we look at ourselves. To stand silent, or contribute to an untruth, equally impacts our perception of self. The character in which we can take pride, is tested when, after the chosen action, we have no regret. The action aligns with our personal values, and we do not have any concerns about who knows what we have chosen to do. Building strong character, of which we can be proud, takes time and stamina gained through facing the many storms in our lives. It is during these life storms that we have the opportunity to make small changes. These small changes are how we slowly build the character we can be proud of. Recently, I watched a football team, which was young, outnumbered, and riddled with injuries, come out of half time and play as hard they could. Though the final score did not reflect a victory, the victory was theirs that night. They improved on the small things, they did not give up, and they continued to believe they were able to compete with tougher competition. They could walk off the field knowing they were proud of their effort and actions. Remember, character is not measured by wins and losses, but by how we judge ourselves and our performance.
Later, if you watch the video tape of your life, will you be proud of what you see?
Kevin Polky, CADC, LCSW