Character is rarely intentionally developed. We often hope to form it on the fly, and neglect to give it daily attention.
Instead, our focus and attention is often upon developing the skills and knowledge to advance in our careers or hobbies. We forget that everything we dream of doing will flow from our hearts. Who we are will always control what we do and how we do it.
Who you are becoming should always be given more attention than the ministry or work strategies you are adopting. If you become the right person, you’ll inevitably do some right things.
This necessitates a daily focus upon working your character muscles. In the same way the breaking of muscles is necessary to develop stronger muscles, your character needs to work during difficult and broken times in order to get stronger.
Give your character a daily workout by trying these 6 practices. Like a checklist of exercises you bring with you to the gym, intentionally look for opportunities to stretch your character muscles through these 6 practices and watch as you grow in spiritual health.
1. Say no to something you want
Self- control is easy. At least when whatever you are denying yourself isn’t very appealing . In reality, self-control is really only developed when you say no to something you actually want. But…how can you develop self-control in the areas that are EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to give up?
The answer is to practice self-control in other areas of your life. If you haven’t developed the self-control to deny the hardest habit or desire, say no to something else you want.
- Having a hard time going to the gym? Say no to the cupcake at lunch.
- Struggle holding your tongue at home? Hold your tongue at work.
Sometimes the two won’t be related, but practicing the character of self-control, in any area, will cause a ripple effect as you grow in the ability to deny yourself and say yes to the right things. Here’s the truth…
So today, say no to something you want even if you don’t have to. This daily practice will grow your character and give you the spiritual strength to use self-control in the harder areas of your life.
2. Love someone you can’t
Anyone one can love someone who loves them. This doesn’t demand character’s presence. However, loving someone intentionally that you feel like you can’t necessitates a heart that is being changed by Jesus.
We all have people in our lives that we feel we couldn’t or shouldn’t give our love to. We mistakenly believe that if we love them intentionally, we are giving them permission to continue in their behavior.
Whenever you love someone you don’t feel like you can, you create an opportunity for them to be changed. The reason they are the way they are most likely has a lot to do with the absence of felt love in their history.
You’ve heard it said before… Hurt people, hurt people. Well the same is true with love. Loved people, love people. Love displayed creates the opportunity for change that judgement never can. Opportunities aren’t always taken, so those you love won’t always return it. However, your character of love will provide the opportunity for change that judgement never would have given them.
More than anything, loving someone difficult today will change you. It will break your heart from the chains of bitterness and repair it with compassion. You’ll not only begin to feel different, but you’ll see others differently. What once caused you to be angry toward them will move you to be broken with them. Whether they invite you into their mess is irrelevant, because your heart will have developed the empathy to be available to them.
How our world would be different if our hearts became emotionally available to those hurting and to those who caused the hurt, for both individuals are broken and in need of our Savior.
Today, love someone intentionally you don’t think you can. Whether this be through a spoken or written word, display the love that will provide the opportunity for change.
3. Find joy in something you hate
Joy is more than happiness. Happiness comes and goes with the experiences and the wave of emotions we encounter throughout the day. Sometimes we aren’t happy, but we can display the character of joy.
Finding joy is truly a test of character. Especially when you are working to find joy in something you hate. Finding joy in…
- the job you hate
- the relationship you hate
- the disease you hate
Whatever it might be for you, there are some things in life that can be really difficult to find joy in. However…
Finding joy in something you hate is all about choosing to find Jesus in something you hadn’t seen Him in before.
Jesus is present and working in any and all situations; the good, and especially the bad ones. However, in difficult moments we usually are so focused upon the pain,that we miss the presence of our Savior. You can find joy in all situations because we can trust His presence in them.
This doesn’t mean you are now happy about the situation, the person, or the circumstance. It simply means you are choosing the joy that comes with knowing Jesus is working in it because you trust Him with it. Our God works for our good and can bring good out of any bad situation.
Today, whatever you are having a difficult time experiencing joy in… look for Jesus there. He is there. He is working for your good and this can bring you joy.
4. Choose peace during chaos
Most likely you don’t choose peace often. Instead it’s an emotion you experience during the good times. You feel peaceful when the kids are settled in bed. You can sense the peace around you when family is getting along. You reminisce in the peaceful memories of your childhood or recent weekend getaway.
Peace is often an emotion we experience more than something we choose. That means our circumstances will often chart the course for how we will respond emotionally.
The problem with this is that we can become a slave to our circumstances. We are good when things are good, and we are bad when things are bad. This is a horrible way to go through life, having the peace in our heart be dependent upon what is happening around us.
How do you combat this? How do you choose peace during chaos?
- First, you can’t choose an emotion to feel, but you can control the emotions you act on. Peace isn’t just an emotion,it is also an action. You can choose to be a peace maker with others and within yourself.
- Second, in order to choose peace during chaos, you must respond with peaceful actions.
The actions you take can shape the emotions you feel. During times of chaos, if you respond with actions of war rather than actions of peace, you’re going to feel anger and frustration. Actions can elevate or diminish the emotions you are experiencing.
Today, during a time of chaos, choose to respond with peace. Peaceful actions promote harmony and unity rather than division. They work to diminish tension rather than elevate it. They don’t get swept away by heightened emotion, but take the time necessary to gather themselves emotionally. Whether that be during the craziness of work or home, control how you respond to the chaos.
When you think a situation demands a response of war, outwardly or inwardly, take every thought captive and respond with peace.
5. Practice patience during frustration
Even in the most ideal situations, frustration will still occur. You might think a better work environment, boss, or home life would straighten everything out.
However frustration, no matter how ideal the environment or relationship, would still occur. The first disciples of Jesus knew this.
Jesus was the perfect leader. He didn’t make wrong decisions. Being all-knowing helps. More than simply knowing the right things to do, He knew the perfect way to do them. He always said the right thing, always listened, always cared for those He was leading, and always had the purest of motives.
Yet despite all this, the majority of His disciples left him, one of His closest friends betrayed Him, and most questioned Him. The disciples were constantly frustrated with how Jesus spoke, the decisions He made, and what He was telling them to do. Frustration happened within the BEST of circumstances.
So, what does this teach us? This teaches us that we need to learn how to practice patience during all times of frustration because frustration is part of our human condition.
The key to practicing patience during times of frustration is to focus upon God more and yourself less.
Frustration can cause you to focus upon yourself. You begin to mentally press into the idea that YOU are what’s most important. This will never end well because you were never meant to be the focus of life’s story. That place was always made for Jesus.
Frustration can cause you to think your happiness and satisfaction must be protected at all costs. However, patience helps you see that God’s love for others must be demonstrated at all cost. Even if that cost is your momentary happiness.
Today, during a time of frustration, choose to turn your attention upon God and practice demonstrating patience toward someone He loves. The person most likely doesn’t deserve it, but God’s love is most beautiful when it’s least deserved.
6. Display kindness to those who ridicule you
Ever felt attacked? Whether on social media or in person, you probably know what it feels like to experience ridicule from others.
Sometimes people will talk badly about you. Your words will be taken out of context, you’ll have moments of sticking your foot in your mouth, or sometimes people just won’t like what you have to say. Knowing how to respond to this is critical.
I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Whenever you respond to ridicule with kindness it will save your day emotionally. Being caught up in drama, on social media or in person, is emotionally draining. It affects how you feel throughout the day and taints the good you could have experienced.
You know this reality whenever you get into an argument with a friend or spouse. If you didn’t handle it correctly, your whole day feels off. However, if you responded with kindness, your day is drastically different.
Without practicing the character of kindness, you experience the burden of going throughout your day thinking of what you SHOULD have said, to either tell them off or repair the relationship. When kindness is displayed, the battle in your head isn’t necessary because the kindness you displayed said it all. Whether the other person accepts your kindness or not, your action will save your day emotionally, even if theirs is still a mess.
Today, whether in person or on social media, display kindness to someone who’s ridiculed you. Do your part to extend an olive branch and pay attention to the emotional freedom you experience.
What about you?
Of the six listed above, which one are you going to make a priority this week? Which one is the hardest for you? Comments are celebrated below.