On the Corner

By Robert Docter – 

No single act, good or evil, contains within itself a true revelation of a person’s character. No one trait defines us. The qualities that reveal the values which guide our personhood merge imperceptibly one with another as cross-sections of character.

What qualities define “good” character? Let me identify some of my choices-not in any particular order but as they come to mind.

Self-sacrifice. This is the opposite to self-centeredness. It concerns itself with the welfare of others. It is altruism, a willingness to give without the expectation of anything in return.

Self-control. The opposite of this trait is self-indulgence, in which a person refuses to explore the weakness of temptation by confronting it. Those with self-control express themselves openly and enjoy life fully, but they have defined certain disciplinary points which they use to guide their decision making. They are not rigid. They are rational. They respect the boundaries others have drawn around themselves and their property.

A spirit of brotherhood and democracy. The opposite of this trait is jealousy and intolerance. The human organism God created presents itself in unique ways. The presumption that some of us are superior to others simply fosters fear and hatred, which lead to separation. Democracy grants equality and freedom, but demands justice and responsibility. It works to the degree that the majority of the people limits their power in order to protect the rights of the minority.

Patriotism/loyalty. The love of one’s country, or humankind, or God does not mean that one must embrace exclusivity. True patriotism is non-competitive. Just like love, it does not flower when planted in a garden of superiority. True loyalty is never blind. It is perceptive and communicates both support and opposition.

Flexibility and reverence for tradition. Tradition binds civilization together. Flexibility helps it grow rather than break. We need to have both simultaneously.

Courage. Faith, trust, confidence, honor- all are possible where there is courage. Each requires risk in the presence of threat; certainty in a time of doubt; conviction when the most optimistic among us speak only of possibility; integrity in the face of licentiousness.

Steadfastness. To persevere in the face of suffering-to be consistent in the quest of right action-to be willing to stand firm for a cause that is right even when it requires standing alone.

Helpfulness. An unselfish spirit of service in which the last come first and the servant is the seer. Helpfulness sings a song of openness and giving- a rhapsody of generosity-a symphony of mutuality. It doesn’t stop half-way. There is a shared effort until a work is completed.

Obedience. To pursue an objective as directed-to be true to one’s self- to recognize the voice of authority and understand its necessary place in the plan of things.

Reverence. A devotion to God based on respect and love. An understanding of the role of the church in society as a body of people working together to practice the presence of God. A striving to know God more intimately, and to reveal Him to others more accurately.

Trustworthy. This is someone whose life reveals consistency and whose word can be depended upon. The trustworthy person honors commitments to truth which actualize themselves in behavior.

The Ten Commandments. Some things are right and some things are wrong. The person with character knows how to “follow the rules,” and behaves with consistency in commitment to them.

Well, these are some of my thoughts on that complex word, character. I hope they give you some room for thought. Perhaps you’ll add to my list. Perhaps you will struggle to sense how these qualities merge and reveal themselves in your own life.

I’d love to hear from you.


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