The Importance of Character

The final forming of a person's character lies in the their own hands Anne FrankA Matter of the Heart

Numerous men and women throughout history have spoken at length about the importance of having an upright character, especially for those who serve in any type of leadership capacity. A simple search on the topic of character and leadership yields thousands of books, speeches, and quotes. Character is so important to us that we even recognize it as one of the principal requirements of trust, and trust is the essential prerequisite for all meaningful relationships.

Most people would never consider following someone with a past filled with dubious moral or ethical choices. Unfortunately, there appears to be a general incongruity in our society between what we say we value, and what people actually allow. Far too often the media is filled with sordid stories about the ignoble actions of people who are our society’s supposed “role models.” The daily media seems filled with scandalous stories that involve major sports figures, political leaders, religious leaders, and business executives. Stories such as a highly talented (and well paid) football player involved in illegal dog-fighting, a state governor accused of trying to sell a seat in the Senate, and even the former chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange pleading guilty to stealing billions of dollars from thousands of investors in a “ponzi” style scheme. Even the highest office of our land is not exempt from disrepute when a sitting President of the United States admits to sexual improprieties with a young intern. Sadly, we far too often learn of sexual misdeeds and other immoral actions by Christian leaders once again resulting in discredit to the Body of Christ. It is almost as if the unspoken message has become, “It’s okay to do what you want as long as you don’t get caught.” Every one of the activities cited above is really nothing more than a character issue.

What is Character?

A person’s character is who they really are. We all think about a lot of things that are not godly, and things we would be ashamed of if they were available for all to know. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” My reputation is what others think of me, which may or may not be true, but my character is who I really am. Your character is the real you in the sense that you cannot separate what you do from who you are.

Everyone has a “public” face and a “private” face. Most of us tend to act with better behavior around others than we do in private. The other day I was at a major retail store when I noticed sophisticated video surveillance equipment. It’s not that I was going to do anything wrong, but just knowing the cameras were there resulted in my thinking, “I need to watch what I am doing because someone could be watching me.” Stories abound of people being caught on camera committing rueful acts. It is sad but true that video cameras reveal what we all know: that a person’s real character is who they are when they think no one is looking. The British writer and politician Thomas Macauly (1800-1859) once said, “The measure of a man’s character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out.”

Character is the aggregate of a person’s ethical and moral qualities, and it is demonstrated through the choices we make. So a person of good character is someone who acts morally and ethically upright. Undoubtedly, we are all a mixture of both good and bad, so we are not saying that to have “good” character a person never makes any missteps. Rather, he is someone who is always striving to take the moral high road and, when he recognizes he has done something wrong, does what is necessary to get back on track.

The list of “high value” character traits (those virtues we esteem) is extensive, and includes such things as integrity, courage, honor, honesty, and fortitude. In addition to the many noble traits there are, we Christians would also want to make sure that we are pursuing those virtues that God espouses. Certainly this list for us would incorporate the distinguishing qualities of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and humility. In fact, it has been said that the fruit of the spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22 and 23 represent the character of Christ.

Galatians 5:22 and 23a
(22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
(23a) gentleness and self-control…

The type of character you have is your choice. This is why it was once said that, “Your character is the sum total of your life choices.” If you make poor choices, such as stealing, lying, or laziness, then you have poor character. I may not have a choice regarding the situations I am confronted with, but I always have a choice concerning how I respond to those situations. When dealing with frustrating or disappointing circumstances, I can respond with anger or with patience. The choice is always mine to make, so my character is always a matter of my choice, and thus it is my responsibility.

What does God Say about Character?

God absolutely cares about character, so much so that it could be said that the Bible is a character textbook. It is filled with instructions on what it means to live righteously, that is, in a “godly” and upright manner. The Bible is also filled with stories of men and women who have done it right, and many who have not. These are for our learning so we can benefit from the examples of others.

One of the very first records in the Bible is about a man (Adam) who failed to heed God’s instructions, resulting in calamity and pain that is reverberating even to this day.

Romans 5:12
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned-

Adam’s story is filled with numerous character lessons. When he sinned, Adam’s character demonstrated rebellion and rejection of God. Although Adam was created physically and morally perfect, he chose to disobey God, and character is always the result of choices. Adam’s actions included disobedience, and a lack of submitting to God, which is what we call P-R-I-D-E. One of the most important traits of godly character is humility, which is the polar opposite of pride. The words of the prophet Obadiah, written thousands of years later, ring as true for Adam as they do for us today.

Obadiah 1:3
The pride of your heart has deceived you…

Since that day of moral failure, God has been directing man back to the path of moral high ground through various means. The Ten Commandments include directives that show people what to do to have godly character. These include, “Thou shall not” lie, steal, commit adultery, covet, or murder (Exod. 20:7-17). Clearly, God’s Word is filled with instructions concerning how a person with godly character is to both think and act.

In the New Testament Paul instructed the first century Christians to put off their ungodly pagan lifestyles and “…become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation…” (Phil. 2:15). It is not news that the world will always be in conflict with God’s ways. God even tells us that “…friendship with the world is hatred toward God…” and “…Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

In contrast to the way of the world, we are to pursue the higher and nobler path.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

And, not only are we to think about these things, we are to put them into practice, that is, to do them, and character always involves the doing!

Philippians 4:9
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

In the Old Testament, Boaz, speaking about Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David, said she was a woman of “noble character” (Ruth 3:11). The word translated “noble character” in this verse is the Hebrew word “chayil” which generally refers to strength and might. In this instance it applies to her inner strength of character. From the record about this wonderful woman we learn many character lessons from her interactions with her mother-in-law. Ruth shows herself to be faithful, kind, merciful, steadfast, industrious, and humble, all of which are wonderful and godly character traits.

Just as there are examples of people with great character in the Bible, there are also records of those who did not do quite so well. King Saul, although looking like the right choice as a king, had some serious character flaws. The prophet Samuel delivered some great promises that should have inspired and encouraged him. Yet despite this, from early in his kingly career he demonstrated fear. In one of the first accounts about him we find that “…he did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about the kingship” and then later that “…he has hidden himself among the baggage” (1 Sam. 10:16 and 22). Saul’s failure to address this deep issue of his heart continues to show up throughout his royal career, resulting in numerous acts of disobedience, murder, deceit, and pride.

The life of Christ teaches us great practical character lessons. In spite of difficult circumstances and times of severe difficulty, he always responded in a godly manner. He was the epitome of love, kindness, and gentleness. Yet, at the very same time, he was a man of great passion, strength, and fearlessness. And now, we too are told that this is how we can, and should, live.

Character, a Matter of the Heart

One of the great lessons Jesus taught his followers is that a man’s or woman’s character is always a matter of what is in his or her heart. If a person commits adultery it is because that is what he has living in his heart, and a person’s heart is always his responsibility. This is why God tells us that we are to guard our hearts, to protect them with the greatest of care.

Proverbs 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

A wellspring is a source of water that bubbles up and comes forth from the ground. In a similar way, what we do is the result of what we hold and think upon in our hearts, the wellspring, or source, of our actions. When I lie, steal, or act immorally, it is because that is what I have fostered and nurtured in my heart. God will not only judge us concerning whether we do wrong or evil deeds, but also if there is wickedness in our hearts. A person may choose not to actually commit a wrong only because the evil in the heart merely lacks the opportunity to express itself. A person may have adultery in his heart, but lacking the opportunity, may never have been able to act upon it. This is why Jesus told his disciples that a man committed adultery even if he lusted after a woman in his heart.

Matthew 5:27 and 28
(27) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’
(28) But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

If a person with evil in his heart is presented with the opportunity, he will act on it. This is why we are often surprised and dismayed when we hear of someone doing a serious wrong, having no idea that he was that “type of person.” It is because we had no cognizance of the “evil” that was in his heart. Sinful behavior often happens because people fail to guard their hearts, so when presented with the opportunity to sin, the temptation is too strong for them to resist. They have not trained their hearts to do good, but have instead harbored evil. Above all else, we must guard our hearts because it is our hearts that will be judged.

Proverbs 21:2
All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart.

1 Corinthians 4:5b
…He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts…

In the parable of the sower in Luke 8, Jesus makes the point that the “good soil” stands for those with a noble and good heart. A person who has a noble and good heart is a person with upright character. Throughout the Scriptures there are hundreds of lessons about a person’s heart because it is our hearts, our character, which will be examined before his throne, judged and rewarded accordingly.

With the exception of random thoughts and instinctive reactions, everything a person thinks about and does is an issue of the heart. When we speak (which is an action) we are merely vocalizing a thought, and our character is always a matter of our thoughts and actions.

Matthew 15:18 and 19
(18) But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’
(19) For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

Every evil action Jesus listed above is a character issue, which is why God weighs (will judge) our hearts. Each of us will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, where our hearts, our character (all of our thoughts and deeds), will be exposed.

2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

We do not believe, as some teach, that Christians will only appear at the judgment seat to receive rewards. Rather, the word “appear”, which is “phaneroo” in the Greek text, should properly be translated “made visible” or “exposed” here. What will be exposed? Our heart, our character, will be revealed and known for what they are. This is why it is so important for us to guard and purify our hearts (James 4:8).

The great news is that because character is a choice, you can choose to change it! I have a younger sister who once said, “If you don’t like who you are, then reinvent yourself.” That struck a chord deep inside me the minute she said it. There was a time in my life that I made some seriously wrong choices. As I reflect back on those times, I realize now that bitterness and other nasty things were brooding in my heart. I decided I did not like who I was, so I began to address the issues of my heart, and changed. The transformation did not happen overnight, and it was not easy, but I changed, one step at a time. I held a picture in my mind of the kind of person I wanted to be and then I began to behave in a manner consistent with that picture. Over time I changed my heart, and my character. Helen Keller once said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” We can change our character, but it takes work (effort), a lot of hard work (persistence), and time (perseverance).

Create in Me a Perfect Heart

No one has a perfect heart. We all make mistakes all the time. The question is never whether or not we make mistakes, but, “Are we deliberately sinning, acting pridefully, insisting on doing things our way, and not walking in humble submission to God and others?” Everyone is a mixed bag of both good and bad; we are a complex mixture of thoughts, motives, and actions. We all sin and will continue to do so, most probably on a daily basis (Rom. 3:23 and 5:12).  Because of Adam’s rebellion against God, the struggle against sin and ungodly character is something that all mankind is cursed with, and will be until the day of our redemption. In Romans chapter 7 Paul describes the struggle that wars within him between his carnal self, and the new spiritual man inside him.

Romans 7:15-24
(15) I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
(16) And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.
(17) As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.
(18) I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
(19) For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
(20) Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
(21) So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
(22) For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;
(23) but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
(24) What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

The gift of holy spirit literally provides us with a new spiritual nature. We received it as a gift from God, so now it becomes our responsibility to act in a way that conforms to this new holy nature. We are to transform our character so it mimics the character of Christ. We actually have an obligation, a moral responsibility, to change our character so that it is aligned with the reality of the spiritual holiness that we now have.

Romans 8:11 and 12
(11) And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
(12) Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.

Most people remember King David for his valiant exploits, like his defeat of the giant Goliath, or his profound sins, such as his adultery with Bathsheba. Like King Saul, David had some serious sins including lust, adultery, deceit, manipulation, murder, cover-up, pride, and hypocrisy. Yet the testimony about David is that he was a man after God’s very heart. How can this be? It is not because David was perfect, or never did wrong, but rather, that when he did sin, he repented, changed, and corrected his heart.

Acts 13:22b
‘…I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

David recognized his sinfulness, yet he passionately pursued God with his whole heart.

Psalm 51:5, 6 and 10a
(5) Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
(6) Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
(10a) Create in me a pure heart, O God,…

As the king of Israel, God placed David in a position of tremendous importance. He was undoubtedly gifted in many ways and had an important calling on his life. Yet David, like us, will not be rewarded for his gift or the position he held, rather he will be rewarded for what he did with those things. In other words, he will be rewarded for his character.

David’s son, Solomon, was also very gifted, specifically with wisdom, yet it was Solomon’s character deficiencies that allowed him to disobey God by taking many foreign wives, amassing great personal wealth, and going to Egypt to build up his army with horses and chariots. God specially forbade the kings of Israel to do those things (Deut. 17:16 and 17). Solomon’s character was wrong and the record of the Bible shows that his heart was turned from God.

1 Kings 11:4
As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.

1 Kings 11:9
The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.

Despite Solomon’s great gifting, it was his character flaws that caused his downfall. This should serve as a sober reminder to everyone that we must put our focus on our character, and not on our gifts and callings. The fact is we have all received gifts of grace (Rom. 12:6a), but what is important is what we do with those gifts (and our doing always flows out from our character), not that we have the gift. The record of Scripture shows that God never promotes a gifting over a person’s character. This is in direct contrast to the way the world works. In the world, people with great giftings get promoted, become “superstars,” and often rise to the top of their area of expertise, despite their character. A person can be mean-spirited, a substance abuser, sexually immoral, a thief, a liar, and more, but if they are good at what they do, the world still promotes them. Not so with God.

Our giftings are just that—gifts from God, and they do not impress Him. What impresses God, and thus what should impress Christians, is when someone has godly character. We must remember that we are not rewarded for our gifts, but for our character. We can be sure that good character is what will count at the Judgment.

God tells us that He will discipline us like a father. He disciplines us because He wants us to correct our character. He is referred to as the Gardener who seeks to prune us so we can be more fruitful. He prunes us by removing the things in our lives that interfere with our godliness, so that He can make us more fruitful.

In many ways our lives are like a garden plot. God has given us the plot (our life) and it includes our gifts and talents. We had no choice in what we were given (the location of the land, or the quality of the soil), just like we had no part in the gifts and talents we received. We can think of God as the sun because “God is light,” and like the sunlight, it is the source of all life. His Word is the good seed that will grow if the soil is right, and the gift of holy spirit is the water. My garden will grow wonderfully if I continue to do the work necessary to make it good, fertile soil. But, just like my life, I have a choice about the soil. I can ignore my heart and let it become devoid of nutrients, or I can fill it with weeds by not guarding it from worldly influences. It is my choice to do the hard work of weeding (discipline), and cultivating the soil. Farming, like character development, takes a lot of time and effort. As author Stephen Covey says, “Could you ever “cram” on the farm—forget to plant in the spring, play all summer, and then race in the fall to bring in the harvest? No, because the farm is a natural system. You must pay the price and follow the process. You reap what you sow, there is no short cut.”  No matter what I choose to do, the day will come when the soil will have produced a crop, and if I have done my work well, the fruit that is reaped will be godly fruit.

God is always attempting to get us to change our character. We must do what we can today to conform to His image, the image of Jesus Christ. Our character is important because it is a demonstration of our heart, and just like my garden, I will reap a bountiful harvest of righteousness on The Day if I tend to my character. It is always a matter of the heart!

Character Quotes to Consider:

“Live your life in such a way that when you die they can give your pet parrot to the town gossip.” Will Rogers, humorist.

“Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wing, and only character endures.” Horace Greeley (1811-1872) — New York newspaper editor.

 

Today’s article was shared from the following website: http://www.truthortradition.com/articles/the-importance-of-character

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Are You Thankful for Your Thorns?…Dealing with Adversity

rose bushes profile-girl-rose-young-girl-50998With Thanksgiving quick approaching, the last thing you may have on your mind is thorns. However, life is full of thorns and it is important to be thankful – even for some of the thorns! In that spirit, I share today’s story:

Sandra felt as low as the heels of her Birkenstocks as she pushed against a November gust and the florist shop door. Her life had been easy, like a spring breeze. Then, in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor automobile accident stole her ease. During this Thanksgiving week, she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. As if that weren’t enough, her husband’s company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come. What’s worse, Sandra’s friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. “Had she lost a child? No – she has no idea what I’m feeling,” Sandra shuddered. Thanksgiving? “Thankful for what?” she wondered. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life but took that of her child?

“Good afternoon, can I help you?” The flower shop clerk’s approach startled her. “Sorry,” said Jenny, “I just didn’t want you to think I was ignoring you.” “I . . . . I need an arrangement.” “For Thanksgiving?” Sandra nodded. “Do you want beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the ‘Thanksgiving Special’?” Jenny saw Sandra’s curiosity and continued. “I’m convinced that flowers tell stories, that each arrangement insinuates a particular feeling. Are you looking for something that conveys gratitude this Thanksgiving?” “Not exactly!” Sandra blurted. “Sorry, but in the last five months, everything that could go wrong has.”

Sandra regretted her outburst but was surprised when Jenny said, “I have the perfect arrangement for you.” The door’s small bell suddenly rang. “Barbara, hi!” Jenny said. She politely excused herself from Sandra and walked toward a small workroom. She quickly reappeared carrying a massive arrangement of green bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses. Only, the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped, no flowers. “Want this in a box?” Jenny asked. Sandra watched for Barbara’s response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems and no flowers! She waited for laughter, for someone to notice the absence of flowers atop the thorny stems, but neither woman did. “Yes, please. It’s exquisite.” said Barbara. “You’d think after three years of getting the special, I’d not be so moved by its significance, but it’s happening again. My family will love this one. Thanks.”

Sandra stared. “Why so normal a conversation about so strange an arrangement?” she wondered. “Ah,” said Sandra, pointing. “That lady just left with, ah . . . ” “Yes?” “Well, she had no flowers!” “Yep. That’s the Special. I call it the “Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet.” “But, why do people pay for that?” In spite of herself she chuckled. “Do you really want to know?” “I couldn’t leave this shop without knowing. I’d think about nothing else!” “That might be good,” said Jenny.

“Well,” she continued, “Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling very much like you feel today. She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she faced major surgery.” “Ouch!” said Sandra. “That same year, I lost my husband. I assumed complete responsibility for the shop and for the first time, spent the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel.” “What did you do?” “I learned to be thankful for thorns.” Sandra’s eyebrows lifted. “Thorns?”

“I’m a Christian, Sandra. I’ve always thanked God for good things in life and I never thought to ask Him why good things happened to me. But, when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask! It took time to learn that dark times are important. I always enjoyed the flowers of life but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God’s comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we’re afflicted and from His consolation we learn to comfort others.” Sandra gasped. “A friend read that passage to me and I was furious! I guess the truth is, I don’t want comfort. I’ve lost a baby and I’m angry with God.” She started to ask Jenny to “go on” when the door’s bell diverted their attention.

“Hey, Phil!” shouted Jenny as a balding, rotund man entered the shop. She softly touched Sandra’s arm and moved to welcome him. He tucked her under his side for a warm hug. “I’m here for twelve thorny long-stemmed stems!” Phil laughed, heartily. “I figured as much,” said Jenny. “I’ve got them ready.” She lifted a tissue-wrapped arrangement from the refrigerated cabinet. “Beautiful,” said Phil. “My wife will love them.” Sandra could not resist asking, “These are for your wife?” Phil saw that Sandra’s curiosity matched his when he first heard of a Thorn Bouquet. “Do you mind me asking, Why thorns?” “In fact, I’m glad you asked,” He said. “Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but we slogged through, problem by rotten problem. We rescued our marriage – our love, really. Last year, at Thanksgiving, I stopped in here for flowers. I must have mentioned surviving a tough process because Jenny told me that for a long time she kept a vase of rose stems — stems! — As a reminder of what she learned from ‘thorny’ times. That was good enough for me. I took home stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific thorny situation and give thanks for what the problem taught us. I’m pretty sure this stem review is becoming a tradition.” Phil paid Jenny, thanked her again and as he left, said to Sandra, “I highly recommend the Special!”

“I don’t know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life, ” Sandra said to Jenny. “Well, my experience says that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God’s providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, Sandra, Jesus wore a crown of thorns so that we might know His love. Do not resent thorns.” Tears rolled down Sandra’s cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on resentment. “I’ll take twelve long-stemmed thorns, please.” “I hoped you would, ” Jenny said. “I’ll have them ready in a minute. Then, every time you see them, remember to appreciate both the good and hard times. We grow through both.” “Thank you. What do I owe you?” “Nothing. Nothing but a pledge to work toward healing your heart. The first year’s arrangement is always on me.”

Jenny handed a card to Sandra. “I’ll attach a card like this to your arrangement but maybe you’d like to read it first. Go ahead, read it.” My God, I have never thanked Thee for my thorn! I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorn. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear, teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of pain. Show me that my tears have made my rainbow.

-Author Unknown

Story shared from the following website: http://www.heavensinspirations.com/thankful-for-thorns.html

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Excellence – We Are What We Repeatedly Do

I think we all crave excellence. What I think most of us do not crave is the effort that excellence takes. Some may say that we are inherently lazy – I think mortality makes it easy to shrink from the pain of growth. Excellence comes from what we repeatedly do – so does failure.

Therefore, in order to become excellent, we must cultivate habits of excellence – do things right, grow our minds, enhance and refine our skill set, think positive thoughts, take responsibility for ourselves, etc.

Excellence is never the easy way but it is always the best way!

I hope you enjoy the writings I share today from Ralph Waldo Emerson!:

Thoughts About Living with Excellence

Skill to do comes of doing. Do the thing and you will be given the power.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or find it not. What you are comes to you.

Don’t waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good. Set down nothing that will not help somebody.

Put your trust in ideas and not in circumstances. Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely.

To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.

Unless you do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will not grow. We aim above the mark to hit the mark.

Written by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Words from Ralph Waldo Emerson are shared from the following website: http://www.agiftofinspiration.com.au/stories/excellence/Thoughts%20on%20Living%20with%20Excellence.shtml

 

 

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Adversity – It Is Not What Happens to You…

It is not what happens to you but What happens Within you that counts

We all have adversity in our lives. Admittedly, some have greater loads of adversity to carry and to deal with in their lives but no one escapes the grasp of adversity.

Yet, it is adversity that makes us strong, that teach us lessons, and that can reveal the masterpiece that lies within each of us.

As you read today’s story, I hope you will remember the amazing potential that lies within you!:

The artist Michelangelo often stirred up the opposition of the contemporary artists of his day. Many of them envied his magnificent abilities. One example was the architect Bramante.

Pope Julius retained Michelangelo to build him a splendid tomb. Michelangelo gladly accepted the project and spent eight months in a marble pit personally cutting and selecting the most perfect stones. When he returned, he found the pope had second thoughts. Bramante had turned Pope Julius against the project. The Pope cancelled it.

Later the idea for another special project entered the Pope’s mind. Bramante saw the project as a time consuming trap for which there would be little public recognition. Bramante recommended Michelangelo for the job.

The great artist saw the trap. He knew what Bramante was up to. He wished to turn the project down but did not want to refuse the Pope’s request. So Michelangelo went to work. He spent many years doing the slow and tedious labor the project required. It was the Sistine Chapel.

The inspiration that flowed through Michelangelo can likewise flow through any human being. That is what the inspiration wants to do. It cannot be stopped. It is a living, powerful river that easily circumvents all obstacles.

Michelangelo collected his inner forces for a complete victory. Likewise, we must not fear to face the trickery of some people and expose it for what it is. This is not negative, but intelligent protection and spiritual perception.

In his many books on inner development author Vernon Howard refers to Michelangelo several times. He quotes him as saying, “The more the marble wastes, the more the statue grows.” And, “I released the statue from the stone.” He chiseled away all that was unnecessary, and David emerged.

By: Tom Russell

Story shared from the following website: http://www.inspirationalstories.com/7/715.html

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Cynicism is an Intellectual Cop Out…There is a Better Way

Cynicism is an intellectual copout, a crutch for a withered soul, a thin excuse for inaction and retreating commitment. Do not become cynical; be appropriately concerned and actively involved.

Cynicism is an intellectual cop out,a crutch for a withered soul, a thin excuse for inaction
and retreating commitment. Do not become cynical; be appropriately concerned and actively involved.    Jeffrey R. Holland

There is a lot of cynicism being thrown around in our country right now. I believe in the quote by Jeffrey R. Holland. That is why I used it for today’s meme.

I understand concern. I understand differences of opinion. I understand a desire for leaders to see the world as we see it. I also understand that the solution to every problem, concern or care in this world is God.

I wish that I could share the memories of my near death experience with the world. In it, everyone would be blessed to see that God is real and His love is perfect and ever enduring. Everyone would see His infinite and complete perfection and understand that the key to all happiness, joy and true success is to make God an integral part of all we do and align our choices and actions with His unchanging truth.

The world is imperfect and we are imperfect but the greater the effort of mankind, as a whole, to choose light in this world, the more we will receive peace, safety, and joy. As Dieter F. Uchtdorf said: “When God works through us, No One and Nothing can stand against us.”

I hope you enjoy today’s story which was shared by Hugh Downs!:

Hugh Downs on Overcoming Cynicism

One morning on our Today show we reported on a group of teenagers whose demonstrations had shocked their community. In the faces of the young people pictured on the screen I saw a total rebellion against authority.

“That could have been me 25 years ago,” I said to myself.

It started me thinking back to the age of 14 when the change within me occurred. Up until then I had accepted without question the patterns my parents had set. Then slowly I began to see things through a haze of contempt and rebellion.

Perhaps it was partly because I stood first in my class and took great pride in my pseudo-intellect and glib tongue. Success, I concluded, was all that mattered.

As captain of my own ship, I decided that I needed help from no one. Sensitivity to need and concern for others were, to me, signs of weakness or guilt. I had a theory for everything.

Since a great percentage of those in my home town of Lima, Ohio, were church-going people, I divided them into two neat groups: the ones who used church once a week as a cleansing ritual, and the others who attended church with the thought, “I want to be on the winning side in case there is something to all this.”

So I argued that all churches should be abolished because they stood in the way of faith. I theorized that a man can worship God as he sees fit—where and when he chooses. And if he doesn’t choose to, that is his privilege too. (I didn’t choose to, by the way.)

My name for this theory was “Reverse Piety.” It sounded very smart to me.

But as a working philosophy of life it was to prove more and more unsatisfactory. Actually I should have known better.

My father was a Methodist, my mother a Baptist, but in a spirit of early ecumenicity they became Episcopalians when they were married. Time after time they showed their concern for others.

For a while, my father and a partner ran an auto accessory store. When they went into the red, the partner declared himself bankrupt. My father and mother decided that there was a moral as well as a material obligation involved. He took a job and over the years paid back every penny he owed.

I resented it since it meant there was no money for me to continue college. I had to quit after the first year. My bitterness increased when I applied for 26 jobs in a row and didn’t get one.

Then one day I stopped at the radio station in Lima with the halfhearted hope that there might be some kind of job open. They gave me an audition—and to my surprise I was hired as an announcer. The pay was $7.50 a week.

There was hardly any direction to go but up. I was married and a father when one of those experiences occurred which, in retrospect, you can call a turning point.

The radio station where I worked had to cut costs. My job was in danger. Thinking that my boss was looking for a good excuse to let me go, I built up a real dislike of him.

Then one day he called me into his office. To my surprise his manner was kindly. He was concerned about me. And he worked out a plan for me to stay on the job.

Something happened inside me at that point to chip away at the crust of cynicism I had built up around myself. I thanked him for his thoughtfulness, then said impulsively, “You do this for me when all the time I have been hating you because I didn’t think you wanted me here?”

My boss said calmly, “Why don’t you try to get outside of yourself, Hugh? If you do, you’ll tap a source of spiritual and physical energy that will make you feel inexhaustible.”

I chewed that thought long and hard. The words were certainly not new, but now they had meaning.

For a time I had been examining other faiths, from Judaism to Buddhism and Islam. Each has much to offer. Inevitably I came back to a reexamination of Christianity.

While pondering questions of faith and systems of philosophy, I was moving from radio to television, from Ohio to Chicago and then to New York. The years passed. I worked with Kukla, Fran and Ollie, with Sid Caesar, Jack Paar and the Today show.

As success came I followed the pursuits I liked: astronomy, boating, flying, celestial navigation, music. They can satisfy body and mind, but they leave the spirit unfulfilled. Yet, answers to my quest for faith were coming and piece by piece, like putting together a mosaic, the picture was taking form.

An actor contributed to it. I don’t even know his name. But he was in a very successful play and he was asked how he could possibly remain fresh after giving the same performance, day after day, 700 times.

“The audience hasn’t seen the play 700 times,” he said. “It’s a new play for them every night. If I thought only of myself I’d be stale by the 10th performance. But every night I think of the audience instead of myself and they renew and refresh me.”

Last year I sailed across the Pacific in a small boat. It was immensely satisfying to navigate that distance, even though I had a fall during the voyage that injured my spine. Back home, doctors said it required surgery.

I was taken to the hospital in a wheelchair. The operation was a success and I walked out without any help. Yet the experience added something to me.

First, the ordeal was neither fearsome nor intolerable though from the outside it seemed so. Second, there was always someone along the corridors whose troubles and pain were worse than your own. Cheering them was not depressing or morbid, but just the opposite. You got outside yourself.

At one time I served on the Citizens’ Advisory Committee of the New York State Mental Health Association. That committee was scheduled to make one of their regular visits to patients.

I would have ducked going, if I could. I couldn’t. In our car pool the driver of our auto was a rabbi whose sense of compassion interested me.

At the hospital we walked through the clean, neat rooms. Two very disturbed boys caught our attention. One was 13, the second, perhaps two years older. The older one said very little. The younger one said nothing at all.

As the rabbi talked with them I asked a nurse, “What hope is there for these boys?” She shrugged her shoulders. “Very little,” she said.

As we were leaving, I looked over my shoulder and saw the younger boy sitting on an oak bench, all alone, staring into nothingness, the picture of endless despair.

“That boy,” I said to the rabbi, “looks very much like my own son. I can’t help it, but I’m glad—” I was starting to express thankfulness for the fact that my son was normal.

“I know how you feel,” he interrupted. “That boy is my son.”

It was days before I got over the shock of that experience.

The picture of the rabbi not only ministering to his own son, and to all the afflicted in that institution, but also moving to save me embarrassment is still vivid before my eyes. For in his agony he had learned to lose himself in his concern for others.

This was what my parents were trying to tell me as they scrimped and sacrificed to pay off a debt that was moral, not legal. It was what my boss at the radio station was saying to me when I was 22; and it was what the actor meant when he talked about playing one role 700 times.

Different people were getting the message to me, but it took a long time before I really heard and embraced as the heart of my faith the words Christ uttered to His disciples: He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

Shared from the following website: https://www.guideposts.org/better-living/positive-living/emotional-and-mental-health/guideposts-classics-hugh-downs-on/page/0/2?nopaging=1

 

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