The Power of Friendship…It Sustains, Nourishes and Supports Us

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chicmical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed Carl Jung

Childhood friends Matt Damon and Ben Affleck collaborated on the Oscar-winning screenplay for Good Will Hunting. Fierce tennis competitors Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki like to get together for a gal-pal getaway after a major match. Country music artists Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood married following an 18-year friendship; “We had a lot more in common than I ever dreamed we did,” says Brooks.

Rafts of research confirm how friendship enriches us. Carlin Flora, of New York City, spent years as a Psychology Today writer and editor before penning Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are. She notes that among the varied and perhaps unforeseen benefits, friendships can help us “shed pounds, sleep better, stop smoking and even survive a major illness.”

An ongoing, two-decade-plus study of nearly 1,500 seniors by the Flinders University Centre for Ageing Studies, in Australia, found those with a large network of friends outliving others with the fewest friends by 22 percent. The University of Chicago National Opinion Research Center also reports people with five or more close friends as 50 percent more likely to describe themselves as “very happy” than those maintaining fewer confidants.

“Friends past and present play powerful and often unappreciated roles in determining our sense of self and the direction of our lives,” says Flora. “Even in a supposedly meritocratic society, friends give jobs and assignments to each other, so having friends that share your career interests and aspirations can get you much farther than you could ever get on your own.”

Make New Friends, Keep the Old

Today, making and keeping friends can be challenging, due to distance, frequent life changes, overprotective parenting and substituting social media for more intimate face time. It all makes friendship more fluid than we might realize, says Shasta Nelson, the San Francisco founder of GirlFriendCircles.com, a women’s friendship matching site and author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen: The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends, plus the upcoming book, Frientimacy, about deepening such relationships.

Hallmarks of good friendship include staying in touch and being consistently positive and vulnerable, so as we reveal ourselves over time, we can be authentic with each other.

“Most of us replace half of our close friends every seven years,” says Nelson. Although this might seem alarming, she considers it a natural ebb and flow. “We all need a couple of very close friends, while others that come and go might just be what we currently need—at work or school, among first-time parents, in a new neighborhood, starting a job, in retirement or during some other life change,” she says.

Canadian Greg Tjosvold, a married middle school teacher in Vancouver, Canada, has enjoyed great friendships with women, including his wife, partly because he doesn’t relate to men’s generally competitive nature and interest in sports. But when a close female friend moved away, he wanted to expand his circle to include men. He joined a group called The Barley Brethren that sample craft beers and talk about life. Although not into suds, he values “having a safe and enjoyable place to discuss deep issues, victories and temporary setbacks.” He admits, “That’s over-simplification, though.” Finding a group of men he can feel a part of has validated him, making this unique man still feel like one of the guys.

Nelson categorizes the concentric circles of developing friendship as starting with a mutually agreeable acquaintance or contact and then moving emotionally closer with someone that we find similarities with. Then the original bond can enter the confirmed friend category. A group of friends, like a longtime book club, can constitute a community. The highest level is the committed friend that has evolved into a trusted and valuable life companion.

Sarah Huntsman Reed, a medical counselor in Kansas City, Missouri, has such a lifelong friend. She met Doug Reed, now a pharmacist, when both were in their high school musical, Once Upon a Mattress. Reed had a great sense of humor, Sarah remembers. “He’s still the most honest yet kindest person I’ve met,” she says. Soon, their mothers became friends, too, and the two teens would pair up for family weddings. Then she went to college and married and he moved away; yet they stayed in touch through mutual friends and their moms, catching up in person when he returned to his hometown.

Seventeen years after they first met, by which time Sarah was divorced, the two discussed taking their friendship to the next level and soon married. “It was a big decision to commit because we knew so much about each other,” she says. “But we prefer each other’s company, and it was the best thing we ever did.”

Safety Net

In trying times, friends can surround us with positive energy, says Madisyn Taylor, co-founder, and editor-in-chief of the spiritual blog DailyOm, in Ashland, Oregon. “The people we love form a protective barrier that buffers and shields us from many of the world’s more crippling blows,” including receiving hurtful slights from others.

Everyone from contemporary scientists to ancient philosophers agrees that having strong social bonds is probably the most meaningful contributor to happiness.
~Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project

How we make friends has been altered by today’s social landscape, which includes working parents and Amber Alerts. The days of children freely roaming their neighborhood discovering friends to play with are, unfortunately, over, says Jennifer S. White, a Toledo, Ohio, blogger and author of The Art of Parenting: Love Letters from a Mother.

“My long-term friendships from childhood were all built around being neighbors and playing together just because we wanted to,” recalls White. With today’s safety concerns and work-life challenges, parents now set up playdates, a more structured, less organic way of fostering childhood friendships, and they must be proactive to ensure success.

White has some misgivings about this modern-day approach. “When I think about that one little gleaming seed of truth at the heart of why it’s often because I don’t think it’s fair that I have to be a popular ‘playdate mom’ for my kid to have some friends.”

Besties and Buddies

Automatic playdates—with siblings—often enhance family ties through lifelong friendships. Sally Ekus is a culinary talent representative in Florence, Massachusetts. Her younger sister, Amelia, is the general manager of Twitter Cafe, in New York City, and lives in Brooklyn. Both foodies have knife-and-fork tattoos. Sally is more into meal ingredients and preparation, while Amelia loves pouring wine and making sure everyone is comfortable.

“Together,” says Sally, “we create total hospitality, from lavish Passover seders to Friday nights with friends.” She notes that her sister is the only other person who understands what the world looks like through the Ekus girls’ perspective.

Some adults might never meet face-to-face, but become friends via social media. American Jamie Schler, co-owner of the Hotel Diderot, in Chinon, France, with her native-born husband, says, “Social media [especially Facebook posts] is how I meet and make personal friends and keep in touch on a daily basis. As an expat, this is important because I often feel far from family and friends that understand me, share common interests and ideas and speak the same language—and I don’t necessarily mean English.” Her high-tech circle ranges from hometown pals to new friends in the food community and political forums. She raves, “It’s a place where I find them all at the same time!”

Nelson remarks, “No one is saying Facebook should replace visits, nights out and phone calls, but in a world where most of us wish we felt closer to a few more people, it doesn’t hurt to use every tool at our disposal for creating connections.”

He alone has the spirit of making me smile and touching me to the bottom of my soul.
~Joseph Haydn on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, fast friends and musical mentors

Differences in age needn’t be a hurdle in forging friendships. Candelaria Silva-Collins, an arts marketing professional in Boston, attended area social gatherings where she regularly encountered a museum director and his wife. “They seemed like a fantastic couple,” she says, and began a friendship with the older woman, despite their being from different generations. “My friend teaches me a lot about being vital and vibrant,” she says.

Expanding Circles

Becoming friends with people of different ages, languages and social standing gives us a spiritual workout, advises Nelson. With a master’s degree in divinity, Nelson views friendship as a type of health club in which we develop our empathy, forgiveness and compassion muscles through practice. “Friendships are the way we become better people,” she says.

Furthermore, the process, especially with people unlike us, leads to a better world. “Being able to inherently care for people we know makes it easier to do the same for people we’ve not met yet,” says Nelson. World peace happens one friend at a time.

Today’s post was written by Freelance writer Judith Fertig. Judith also blogs at AlfrescoFoodAndLifestyle.blogspot.com from Overland Park, KS.

Today’s post was shared from the following website: http://www.naturalawakeningsmag.com/Inspiration-Archive/The-Power-of-Friendship/

 

 

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4 Things That Truly Matter

What matters most are those things which, in the presence of God, still matters most JoAnna Oblander“It is not living that matters, but living rightly.” ~ Socrates

When we live lives disconnected from those things that truly matter, sidetracked by the unimportant, lost in the frivolous, distracted by the superficial, our lives start to ring hollow, empty and vacant.

When, on the other hand, we live our lives dedicated to those things that matter most, a greater sense of happiness rubs up against us, walks beside us, calls on us, and even moves in and redecorates our bathrooms.

The choice is obvious. But deciding what matters and what doesn’t is sometimes, and for some people, less obvious.

This is especially true in a Hollywood-centric, pop-culture saturated media-driven ethic.

In such a culture, the substanceless can appear heavy with content, the silly can look profound and the meaningless can seem pregnant with meaning.

So what then truly matters? Here’s a few items on my list. See if they match up with yours.

4 Things that Matter

1. Values Matter

Our values identify what’s important to us and how we prioritize our time, energy and attention. They reflect what we stand for. They define the outer limit of what we’re willing to tolerate and what we’re not. They determine the context of what we’re willing to pursue and what we won’t.

We’re set adrift to flounder in the uncertain moral muck of life when we lack a well-defined set of moral values on which to stand.

Values matter because a life without them is ultimately utilitarian, self-absorbed and unhappy. Our values act as anchors in storms and strings on kites, adding the tension that creates lift but also keeps us from nose-diving into trees or flapping aimlessly in the wind to nowhere.

In the absence of values, we’re rudderless in the pull of moral riptides and trapped in the quicksand of “anything goes.” And when anything goes, everything tends to, including things like self-discipline, self-confidence and self-respect.

2. Relationships Matter

How we treat those closest to us is more significant as a measure of our character than how we treat the stranger or the person we want something from.

I’ve seen families where parents treat their children worse than their friends and their spouses worse than strangers. This is sad to me.

The quality of our relationships is a predictor of the quality of our lives because most of life’s meaning lies within the context of other people. We’re mothers and fathers and spouses, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, employers and employees and teachers and students. So it’s in those relationships that we can do the most good and experience the most meaning.

We are at our most noble and decent when we are in the service of others. When we lift people, we are likewise lifted.

Besides, an isolated life is a self-absorbed one. But the irony is that a life exclusively or even mostly focused on the self is a life missing a fundamental ingredient to purpose and happiness.

So love those who are open to being loved and figure out a way to love those who aren’t. In the process of doing both, the rising sense of meaning and purpose and happiness in your life will be a much more constant companion.

3. Faith Matters

We live in an age of growing faithlessness. People have lost faith in tradition and God, in organized religion, in the institution of marriage and in others. There is less faith in governments and programs and ideologies, in political parties and even in humanity.

The problem is that faith is a principle of action. It inspires and leads and directs and moves us to do, to overcome, to believe and accomplish.

What you believe in — what you trust as right and wrong, true and false, good and bad — plays a significant role in how happy you are able to become. Whether we are talking about faith in God or humanity or Truth or yourself, that faith is critical to living life anywhere near its potential.

Faith is the expectant exercise of hope. It is the root to the tree of action. It is the seed of planning and goals and steps taken toward dreams and through challenges and into happiness.

Faithlessness is life at the edge of hopelessness. It is a life untethered from an assurance beyond the obvious, seen and tangible.

Faith propels us into the dark through to the other side of night. It takes us by the hand across the bridge or along the ledge when the next step is obscured and uncertain. It’s what takes us to the heights of possibility because we believe that wherever we rest now, there’s something more, something higher, something greater down the road. That too is the offspring of faith.

For many of us, faith in God is an added bedrock of assurance upon which we can build. That faith becomes a lighthouse in the darkest moments in our lives and a more accurate mirror of who we are and what we can accomplish when we’re thinking very little of ourselves.

4. Self-Respect Matters

Self-disclosure is not the same as self-exposure. This is a strange age we live in when individuals and families go on national TV to display their family’s dirty laundry. Others clamor for their 15 minutes of fame as reality show contestants who reveal all their darkest secrets and character flaws in shameless overkill. Sports stars and others write tell-all autobiographies that open bedroom doors far too wide for propriety or dignity to have place.

As a matter of fact, that’s just the thing that seems to have been lost by a growing number of people – a sense of dignity that knows when self-disclosure has crept into the exhibitionism of self-exposure.

But the ability to like yourself, born of a deep respect for who you are and are becoming and the potential that is also part of your identity can radically revolutionize your life.

Self-respecting people therefore simply live differently than those who aren’t. They don’t do the same things. They don’t think the same things. They don’t believe the same things. And they don’t allow the same things from others. They simply live different lives in some fundamental ways.

Don’t get me wrong. They both eat and sleep and love their kids. But what they think about themselves and how they treat themselves and talk to themselves and what they believe about themselves are profoundly different. And that’s a dividing point between those who are happy and those who struggle much more than they need to.

Afterthoughts

When I was young, I had an aunt who liked to wrap empty boxes to make Christmas appear even bigger and grander and more exciting than it already was. Sometimes we would forget which presents under the tree were the extra boxes she had wrapped. Someone would inevitably tear into the wrapping, excited about the prospects waiting inside. But all that would be had was an empty shell of a gift. All ribbon and wrapping; no substance.

That’s what life is like when we spend it in the pursuit of things that don’t matter. The packaging may glitter and sparkle, but there’s nothing inside but emptiness.

Here’s the thing. We can eat the food we buy or we can eat the receipt that shows how much we spent on the food we buy. We can have a meal of the substance or of the packaging the meal comes in.

One satisfies. The other leaves us hungry for something more. One nourishes. The other fails to provide us with the life-sustaining nutrients of meaning and purpose and joy our lives crave to have.

Roller coasters are fun. But at the end of the ride, you’re at the end of the ride. The deeper things of life like service and decency, on the other hand, are not always fun. But at the end of that ride, there is a glow in the heart that keeps on giving long after the event is over.

There’s nothing wrong with roller coasters, of course. But in the end, a roller coaster doesn’t take you anywhere.

So look closely. What have you filled the empty slots of your life with? Take stock. Evaluate. Then go to work focusing more on those things that matter most, pushing the time-wasters further into that background, opening yourself for greater and deeper levels of meaning and opportunity, love, joy and success in those things that truly matter.

You, after all, have inherent value. You’re worth the effort at learning to love the weightier things of life. Find them. Recognize them. Embrace them. And let them take you to a life that is deeply and richly rewarding, meaningful and happy.

Today’s post is shared from the following website: http://meanttobehappy.com/4-things-that-truly-matter/

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The Power of Patience

Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy Saadi

Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, I always thought of baseball as a way of life. I couldn’t get enough of it. But along with the hitting and fielding, I developed a growing irritation for anything that didn’t work out for me. I got bugged by things that took time.

Without my seeing it, this impatience began to carry over into various parts of my life. I remember once standing in line in the high school batting cage. I was anxious to take some extra cuts and annoyed that others were taking too many. I rudely pushed my way ahead of a couple of players.

I heard the coach holler out to me, “Hey, Ron, patience is a virtue.” I laughed and said sure, but I couldn’t make it to the big leagues by just standing around. Guys who wait I figured, just didn’t go anywhere.

In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, “Thought Conditioners”. Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader

I felt my not waiting had paid off when, in my senior year at high school, after a good season, the New York Yankees signed me to a major league contract. It all seemed fantastic. The Yankees signed me for a nice bonus, and some New York newspapers were beginning to call me the “Jewish Babe Ruth.”

That summer the Yankees sent me to their rookie league in Tennessee. I did pretty well there and felt I would sail right into the big leagues in the next year, 1968. Well, the next year the Yankees decided they wanted me to have a bit more training and sent me to the Carolina League.

After two more years in the minor leagues, I really felt discouragement getting to me and because of it, I pushed extra hard. I was so anxious to be called up that I began to try for a home run every time I got up to bat that year. Sometimes it worked, but most of the time it didn’t.

The spring of 1971 was chilly and brisk in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where the Yankees hold their training camp. I was invited to camp that year and knew it was to be my big chance.

The fall before, I had got married, and I brought my wife Mara down to Florida with me. I told her this year was it for me and I had to do it now, or else.

Right away, problems began. I hurt my back chasing a fly ball on the first day of practice. Then the Yankees said they wanted me to be an outfielder, not a first baseman like I’d always been.

I worked hard but couldn’t seem to do anything right. I was too eager. I charged in too fast on ground balls and lunged and missed pitches while straining for home runs. In my anxiety to do good quickly, I fell flat on my face. I was one of the first players cut—it was to be back to the minors again.

I told Mara that’s it. We’d go home instead, back to Atlanta. I would finish up my degree in physical education.

Back home, I moped for several days. One evening Mara and I went to temple and as we were coming out, I ran into my old friend and rabbi, Harry Epstein. I told him I had been dropped again by the Yankees but that it was just as well, for I was tired of hanging on.

Rabbi Epstein then asked me what it was deep in my heart that I really wanted to be. I answered with the first thing that came to me—a professional ballplayer.

“Well, he said, “it seems to me what you need most is to unhurry yourself. If you sincerely want something, learn to wait for God to put it in place. It doesn’t matter if it’s baseball or anything else in life. You must have this perspective.”

I told him I had waited enough—three and a half years. I couldn’t do it anymore.

“You must, though,” he said, “for there are reasons why God makes you wait. He will help you get there when the time comes.”

Two days later I was home waiting for Mara. We were going to the movies and she was slow in dressing. “Hey, C’mon,” I yelled, “we’ll be late.” Mara came out of the bedroom, still not ready, and gave me a cross look. “Can’t you wait for anything?” she asked angrily.

I looked at her, surprised. “I’m sorry,” I said after a moment, and with that, I suddenly realized how far my “hurry-upness” had taken me. I had turned into a nervous whiner who couldn’t stand for the slightest interruptions in life.

“We’re not going to the movies,” I said quickly. Then I reached for the telephone. After some dialing, I managed to get hold of a Yankee official in New York. I asked him if it was too late for me to report to the minors. No, he said, and the Yankees were wondering why I wasn’t there.

When Mara and I got to the minor league team in Syracuse, I remembered to do one thing. That was to unhurry myself. To relax and not press so hard. I even learned to play the outfield.

I began hitting consistently, and things went very well. My team was winning, and I was enjoying it. Then on June 25, the call came. The Yankees wanted me up in the majors. They felt I was finally ready, and so did I.

It was a great year for me in 1971. I hit .322 as a major-leaguer and had seven home runs. Probably the most memorable event of that year came in September.

We were playing Cleveland at home and the game was on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish high holiday. This meant that to observe the tenets of my Orthodox faith I would have to end my work before sundown, the beginning of the holy day. Since I had already explained this to the New York Yankee officials and players, they understood that I might have to leave the ballpark before the game was over.

The score was tied and it looked like the game was going into extra innings. We had runners on first and third bases, and I was up. Huge shadows now blanketed the outfield of Yankee Stadium as darkness approached. I might not get a chance to bat.

I went to the plate with one eye on Steve Dunning, the Cleveland pitcher, and the other on the skyline. I was nervous and eager, but my confidence in the God who had helped bring me to the majors was now so deep that I would stop my bat in the middle of my swing and walk off the field if the sun began to set.

I looked out at Dunning and was ready to swing at the first pitch to push things. Then I caught myself. Even though the sun was now only partially visible, I knew I had to wait for the pitch I liked.

I watched two pitches go by, then came a high fast ball. I swung and hit it on a line to right field to send home the winning run.

With that swing, I took another big step in learning the value of patience. More important, I learned that when you trust God in all things and are faithful to Him, He gives you strength and power in every area of life.

Today’s article was written by Ron Blomberg and is shared from the following website: https://www.guideposts.org/better-living/entertainment/sports/the-power-of-patience

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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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Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success

I love this story on teamwork I heard the other day. I think you will agree it is powerful. Feel free to share with your teams.

A team of about 35 employees had come together for a team building event. They were a young, bright and enthusiastic team.

However, one big problem this team had was they wouldn’t share information or solutions with each other. The leader felt they were too focused on self and not enough on team.

So she started off with a fun team activity that would allow her to teach the importance of each team member working together and sharing more.

She brought the team into the cafeteria. All of the tables and chairs had been stacked and put away. Placed around the room were fun decorations and hundreds of different colored balloons.

Everyone was excited, but not sure what it was all about. In the center of the room was a big box of balloons that had not been blown up yet.

The team leader asked each person to pick a balloon, blow it up and write their name on it. But they were instructed to be careful because the balloon could pop!

A few balloons did indeed pop and those members of the team were given another chance, but were told that if the balloon popped again they were out of the game.

About 30 team members were able to get their name on a balloon without it popping. Those 30 were asked to leave their balloons and exit the room. They were told they had qualified for the second round.

Five minutes later the leader brought the team back into the room and announced that their next challenge was to find the balloon they had left behind with their name on it among the hundreds of other balloons scattered in the large cafeteria. She warned them however to be very careful and not to pop any of the balloons. If they did, they would be disqualified.

While being very careful, but also trying to go as quickly as they could, each team member looked for the balloon with their name. After 15 minutes not one single person was able to find their balloon. The team was told that the second round of the game was over and they were moving onto the third round.

In this next round the leader told the team members to find any balloon in the room with a name on it and give it to the person whose name was on it. Within a couple of minutes every member of the team had their balloon with their own name on it.

The team leader made the following point: “We are much more efficient when we are willing to share with each other. And we are better problem solvers when we are working together, not individually.”

Often times members of teams create obstacles that get in the way of teamwork by solely focusing on their own pursuits and goals. They hoard information, avoid collaboration and distance themselves. It is bad for the team and it is bad for that individual.

Every member of a team should ask themselves on a regular basis what they are doing for the team  and can do for the team.

The article was written by Michael G. Rogers and is shared from the following website: http://www.teamworkandleadership.com/2015/10/short-teamwork-story-you-will-want-to-share-with-your-team.html

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