Character is important because it governs our gifts and talents. God gives each of us gifts and talents to assist in fulfilling our God-given purpose. Character needs to be sound to anchor and properly harness and manage the gifts and talents.
We can liken a gift or talent to a kite.
A kite is beautiful, flamboyant, with so much potential to fly high for the world to see. But the kite needs a string and someone to hold that string (this is the character). It needs something to steady and control it and swing it in different directions. This is particularly important when a strong wind comes. If the one holding the string loses control, the kite will fly away and crash somewhere. It’s the same with gifts and talents.
If left unchecked by a good character, gifts and talents will spiral out of control and destroy us.
Well known gospel artist Kirk Franklin once asked a pertinent question. He asked why every new year prophecy is about your career and not your character.
It really got me thinking.
Prophecy, encouragements, new year resolutions, or goals set at the beginning of the year, usually centre on the material. These may be acquiring things like new cars, houses, expanding a business, travelling more, passing exams etc. These things are not bad in themselves, but would it not be wonderful to have a few character goals too?
Such as increasing acts of kindness, being more generous, and controlling your temper better than the previous year.
What does God say about character?
The Bible is full of stories of men and women, some with great characters and some of not so good character. Examples of some good characters are Job and David. This is not to say these people were perfect, but that God singled them out as those he held in high esteem.
Galatians 5:22-23 talks of some attributes of God: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
We can equate these to having a godly character. Being fruit of the Spirit, we can be assured that if we stay connected to God and immersed in his word, the Holy Spirit will impart these to us.
Love is one of the attributes mentioned in Galatians. We find that in the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, love is expounded on.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
Love is largely seen in how we behave towards and treat others. Possessing love is therefore a big indicator of how sound one’s character is.
God values our love for others so much that in 1 John 4:20 it asks a rhetorical question. How can we love God whom we have not seen, yet not love our fellow brethren whom we see? This is certainly something to think about and a call to action.
1 Corinthians 13: 1-3 details how it is worthless being highly spiritually gifted or having amazing capabilities, and giving ourselves up for all sorts of sacrifices, if we have no love. It says we are nothing without love.
Character and the younger generation
We should encourage children, teenagers and the youth in general, to build good characters from a young age. It needs to become a lifestyle. Therefore, it is essential for parents not to only focus on academics, appointments, clubs, sports accolades and the like. This includes when school reports come. It’s commendable if the children are doing well in any of these areas.
However, it is desirable for parents to pay more attention to how their children are interacting with both children and adults, in the classroom and at school.
Teachers will usually comment about behaviour and social skills. If children are being kind, helpful etc. then they should be applauded. But if they are being mean, spiteful, stingy, copying work and so forth, this needs to be addressed immediately and nipped in the bud.
Of course, parents need to reinforce this with scripture. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” In addition, they should be good role models. Children can always have extra lessons to improve on schoolwork and sport. But what do you do about bad behaviour and character? It takes years to cultivate a godly character and so should be addressed early in the life of a child.
Dealing with character flaws
In life we can go around in circles facing the same challenging issues, and challenging people or similar type of people. This can persist even if we for example relocate or change jobs. At times, though not always, it may be that God is trying to address, a character flaw. The sooner we yield to him, admit our weakness and ask for help, the better. We will then move on and stop going around the same mountain.
We can decide to change our character. Contrary to popular belief, character is a choice.
For example, you can decide to be honest, to be kind, to be compassionate, and to be generous.
It is good to thank God for what he does for us (for example provision of relationships, opportunities, material things) and through us (impacting the people and situations around us with our gifts and talents). We should also be grateful for what he continuously does in us (pruning us and diminishing our character flaws).
John Wooden said, “Talent will get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there”.
That is so true!
Therefore, the answer to whether character really matters, is an emphatic “Yes!”
God wants us to be of godly character so that we can fulfil our potential and become all that he wants us to become and achieve all the mighty exploits for his glory.