Character is something that increases as we draw closer to God in our lives. Take God out of the equation and anyone's moral compass is as good as anyone else's; but when the life of God increases in and you through you, character becomes more vibrant and obvious. Character isn't a warm fuzzy or sappy feeling; it's hard work. In a world filled with continuous temptations to take the low road, it takes an iron-clad will to develop character.
Character is what you are when no one is looking. It's refusing to broadcast the negative things you know about someone else, even after their flaws have become public knowledge. It's listening to, and learning from critics. It's restraining from sarcasm (which requires great self-esteem...especially the sarcasm that demeans others in an effort to be funny). It's obeying the law, paying our taxes, respecting authority and standing against every kind of injustice. It's the highest and noblest of all personality traits.
Striving for character can also be dangerous. It can lead us to the false conclusion that God will love us more when we're "good." Such a view dismisses the reality that we're all saved by grace, and grace alone. God loves us, period...on our best days and our worst days. Unimaginable? Yes, but 100% true. An obsession with character can lead us to value religion more than the Cross. Satan delights in making us think that religion and legalism saves us. He knows it will keep us in the endless cycle of a repent-try harder-repent-try harder life...a shame-based life, not a grace-filled life. In a shame-based life, God's love becomes a burden to be "earned" rather than a blessing that leads us into wide open spaces of freedom and peace.
Some other thoughts about what character is: 1. It's self-leadership. It doesn't waver whether or not the boss is nearby.
2. It's generous. There's a bent toward giving ourselves and our possessions away.
3. It has a truth source. For me, that truth source is the Word of God, the Bible. In my opinion, the most remarkable book in human history.
4. Character does the things that people who lack character don't do. It exceeds expectations. It masters the little things--i.e. returning phone calls, emails, responding to invitations, sending thank-you notes, encouraging others, building them up, believing in them, lifting them to a higher place, helping them reach their potential, and taking a moment to listen and be fully present.
5. It honors the elderly, veterans, public servants, military personnel and others in positions of authority (even those we don't agree with or respect. Romans 13:1-7).
6. It's being faithful to your "significant other" when your spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend isn't present. In short, it doesn't flirt, linger long at frivolous conversations with the opposite sex, or try to build emotional attachments with them in order to soothe our own ego or compensate for our low self-esteem.
7. It's loyal to a fault.
8. It works hard...for the glory of God, not man (Colossians 3:23).
9. It avoids living a life of constant comparison to others. It's comfortable in it's own skin--warts and all.
10. Character is a joy-giver, dream-releaser, hope-enhancer, and giver of life to others, expecting nothing in return.
Abraham Lincoln said it well, "Reputation is the shadow; character is the tree." It's doing the next, right thing; then repeating that until you die and go Home. Finally (and most importantly) character...is love. Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and interchange the word "character" for the word "love." Live THAT life. You'll be a difference-maker in the world, but especially in your own sphere of influence--home, family, relationships and friends (where it matters most). If you haven't been (or aren't) a person of character, you can change that. Push "reset" and start TODAY. Create a new past, one day at a time. You can be more than you are. BE a man/woman of character. Can you think of a better legacy?