An Understanding of Character and its Impact

Our character is our choice. Character is not one’s personality. A person’s personality is innate; it comes naturally. Character is a result of moral discipline and prudence. When you worry about character and image, do you even have character to begin with?

“In the 17th century, the word [character] came to be associated with the ‘sum of qualities that defines a person.’ These qualities included a [person’s] intellect, thoughts, ideas, motives, intentions, temperament, judgment, behavior, imagination, perception, emotions, loves, and hates. All of these components William Straton Bruce writes in 1908’s The Formation of Christian Character, ‘[G]o to the shaping and coloring of a man’s character. They have all some part in producing that final type of self, that ultimate habit of will, into which the man’s whole activities at last shape themselves.’” (Brett & Kate McKay)

We are always developing our character. Life experiences, social engagements, what we consume, it all influences our being and personhood. Once we experience things, our perception, thus our actions, are determined. Sociologist James Davison Hunter wrote in his book, The Death of Character, “Character is very much social in its constitution. It is inseparable from the culture within which it is found and formed. In significant ways, character reflects, even, incarnates, the moral culture.” This is why scripture says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)

Just as much as culture and people impacts one’s character, our character affects the society around us. “Character is at least as much a function of the social order as it is a manifestation of the individual person,” Hunter writes. Think about a time where someone’s poor character negatively affected others or a social gathering. Whether it’s from interactions or comments, poor character brings tension and stress to the air. People today call it “bad vibes.” By contrast, a person of good character is a joy and a blessing to many. 

So how can one develop good character? Romans 5:2-5 says, “Through [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but 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.”

Endurance produces character. Character develops as we endure hardships, endure the breaking points, endure the downfalls and failures. Avoidance stunts the development of character. Denial keeps us in arrested development. The life skill of endurance is another way of being patient. Impatience enables frazzled decision making; thus poor choices.

“Anyone with a wise heart is called discerning, and pleasant speech increases learning.” Proverbs 16:21

I pondered on character and where it comes from in relation to the fruit of the Spirit. Kind of like the chicken or the egg; is character produced from the fruit of the Spirit? Or do we bear fruit of the Spirit because of our good character? By exploring scripture and gaining more understanding of character, I concluded: as the fruit of the Spirit is developed within us, we develop good character.

God helps us to develop character. With the fruit of the Spirit, we can endure, and thus produce character. The fruit of the Spirit are: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Living by the Spirit, being with the Father, we develop these traits; we are the company we keep. Living by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).

Self-control is a fruit of the spirit. Brett & Kate McKay write, “The one quality most associated with character in the 19th century was self-mastery — the dominion of an individual over [their] impulses and desires, so that [they were] in control of them, and not the other way around…A [person] of self-mastery embodies the kingship of self-control and can direct [their] will and make [their] own choices, rather than being a slave to [their] base impulses.” Having self-control, you have integrity. You maintain your dignity when you don’t act on impulse.

Character produces hope, and this hope we carry isn’t just for us, this hope impacts others. Character is not meant for us to walk around with this good image. It’s meant to bless and impact others. To improve the social structure. “In both classical and biblical cultures… people well understood there to be a direct association between the character of individuals and the well-being of the society as a whole. Individual character was essential to decency, order, and justice within public life. Without it, hardship was not far off.” (Hunter)

People experience you. Your character, or lack thereof, will impact the world around you. Let’s stop worrying about how we are perceived and focus on the self-development of character. Rest assured, you wouldn’t have to worry about what people think of you. Your character will speak for itself.


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