The Development of Character
In one of the greatest speeches of all time, given at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, USA, on 28th August 1963, Martin Luther King Jr said:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”
For many, that speech still resonates today, but what is character really all about?
If we take the time to look up the definition of character in the dictionary, we will see terms like individual, distinctive, reputation, moral quality, strength and originality.
These are traits we can all relate to and, like Martin Luther King Jr, those of you that are parents can clearly understand what he was getting across when he made this statement.
Before the days of digital or mobile photography, when everyone has become a photographer and photos can be easily taken, wiped, discarded, retaken and distributed online, the process of taking photographs and producing them in printed form was markedly different.
And much, much longer!
How many of you can relate to dropping your films off at the chemist and have to wait a week or so to get your batch of 24 or 36 photos and only then realise how good or bad they actually were?
I kid you not, those of you in your 20s and younger, this was the way we rolled back in the day! Hard to imagine now!
For the purists, photography was, and still is, a process.
First of all, it required a decent camera and some thought given to the subject and the composition. It required dedication and practice to get this right over a period of time and usually improvement took the form of small steps.
The only way to judge whether this process was a success was to take the film from the camera, go to the darkroom and, using chemicals, water, trays and special paper, develop the photographs which appeared in black and white, slowly, but surely, on the paper in front of the photographer’s eyes. The photo would then have been hung up to dry before being displayed.
When it comes to our character, it is a bit like the process of photography I have just described.
Our own individual character is honed and developed generally away from the spotlight, in private and in small step by step stages. It is only over time when we are faced by significant life issues that this character, which has long spent being honed, rises and appears and becomes visible to others.
As believers, we have God dwelling within us and His very character starts to shape our own when we choose to put Him front and centre in our own lives. Generally, this will happen incrementally on a day by day basis as we spend time with Him in His Word and in prayer and with other believers who are undergoing the same process.
It’s then in life, when the rubber hits the road, that true character is revealed. It may be situations at work, in our families, with our health or finances that our true character starts to appear.
And, a bit like the photographs developing in the darkroom, there’s no real way to hide our true character because it will always come out in the end, especially so when faced with difficult situations.
The development of character takes time and it creates a strong basis for God to use people in incredible ways and achieve incredible things. It is foundational for so much in life because our character reveals who we truly are.
We can’t Photoshop our character. We may, through our own efforts, try to make ourselves look the part in the short run but the falseness of this is revealed over time.
David, after all, had his character shaped in the encounters on the hillside with the lion and the bear, spending time alone with God and away from the glare of others, before his very public encounter with Goliath revealed his true nature.
A person after God’s own heart.
So take time with God today, and every day, and choose to make Him the primary focus of your life.
By doing this you will soon start to reflect His perfect character in your own life and, like David, there’ll be no mistaking or faking who you really are.
You will over time become the real deal, displaying authenticity and living a life full of integrity, honouring those with whom you come into contact in your life by dealing honestly and openly with them.
This in turn creates the fertile ground for God to move in your own circumstances and you will without doubt certainly experience the whole truth of the fullness of life Jesus talked about in John 10:10.
And which of us would not want to see and experience that?