Intentional Character Formation

[This builds on two previous posts: 1. here and  2. here.]

The Gift of a Mirror
Many years ago I was confronted by a co-worker. She came into my office to ask me something. Before she could get to her question, she very plainly said to me, “Scott, you are so rude. I come into your office to talk and you don’t even turn your body away from your computer to greet me and listen to me.”

That was a jolt. It was a gift as well.

My co-worker was hurt by my poor relational response. I owed her an apology. I also owed her thanks. She had just held up a mirror to me and allowed me to see my impact on her. I might not have grown in awareness in this part of my life without her honesty. It was a blindspot to me at that time.

Life-Long Growing Response
What was revealed to me was a character immaturity. Character is primarily exposed in the context of relationships. My colleague let me know that the way I related to her hurt her.  This was a theme I had been hearing from others. I was not tending to others well and that is a character issue.

I had some maturing to experience.

That was nearly two decades ago. Yet even to this day, I am being taught by God how to be a better lover of others. This is a life-long journey.

The question is not are there places we must grow. That is a given.

The question is; are we open to seeing, hearing, listening and responding so we can be matured. That is not a given. Most people – the vast majority – are not open, will not listen and will become defensive or dismissive especially as we age. Further, the majority of those over the 50 year old marker, begin to manifest emotionally and relationally what they experience physically, a slow decline.

How will you respond? What do you want the trajectory of your growth to be, a slow fading or a steady uptick? The desired uptick is communion, not performance, by the way.

Intentional Character Growth
Without being formulaic, we can be intentional in our own growth. Here are some ideas:

Ask people what your impact is on them.  Ask numerous times and be prepared to be non-defensive, gracious and grateful. Even if you think someone is flat wrong, use their words as a source of prayer. Practice receiving in humility and ask God to show you where he is inviting you to grow.  Likely the Spirit is already showing you in small ways.  Themes will surface over time as you are attentive to God and others.  

Without becoming moralistic, character can be grown. The reality is that I cannot change my inner life on my own. I can change behaviors and that is a good start. However, I need God to change my character. That is a matter of the heart. Therefore, in a constant posture of humility, dependency, and attentiveness we ask the Spirit to transform us and we can respond by being aware to how we relate to others.

An Example
Let’s say you have noticed you get edgy and sometimes angry when stress piles up. That’s a normal human response. It can also be ungodly – not the anger, but how you might hurt others.

Each time the line is crossed, confession and an apology is in order. Asking the Spirit to teach you self-control, patience, and a deeper self-awareness is key. He will likely show you deep rooted emotions below the anger (for example, fear of being out of control) before you see any external change. This takes time. By leaning into the loss of your temper with intention and prayer, and some initial behavioral control, the fruit begins to be seen. This is not a self-help effort. It is a co-creative response to a redemptive God and others. By persevering in dependency on God and others, the fruit will be most welcome.

Remember, this is life-long. Abide in Christ. He will bear fruit.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!


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2 Responses to Intentional Character Formation

  1. Penny Blum says:

    Hi Scott .. This is excellent .. I commented but am not sure if I sent it and now I can’t find it:):) Penny

    Sent from my iPhone


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