All the examples of character and the types of behavior we see in individuals, groups, political parties and governments during the corona crises, were baked in well before this crisis. Crises don’t build character, they reveal it.
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
Today’s Key Point: Character is developed over the years, little by little. Following examples, trying on what feels right, seeing what works in the little things. Then taking those lessons and applying them to larger and larger issues. And along the way, our character is formed. Thinking and reactions are less deliberate and more automatic; actions and reactions are quickly taken as a result of the character we have developed, far more than from any spur of the moment introspective thought. So when we come face-to-face with a crisis, we react in accordance to the character we have developed for ourselves.
We are going to look at a series of examples as we explore this topic.
If we see citizens in camo with high-capacity, semi-automatic rifles held in front of them in a ready position with a military sling, marching to protest face masks or movement restrictions, nothing was purchased recently, nor has any new thinking developed. They had that gear, thinking and propensity to take strong anti-government actions well before we entered the corona world.
Governors who announce strict lockdowns, followed by helicopter patrols and threats to jail violators, leaned heavily toward very strong government control well before a single corona body bag appeared.
People who cite marginally related as well as misleading COVID statistics while ignoring the real evidence, are not supporting science as they claim. They are using whatever they can find to support their agendas. And those agendas have been with them long before anyone knew that corona was anything more than just a beer.
Those who respond to claims or comments with which they disagree with retorts like, “Dupe”, “Trumpist”, “Commie”, “Libtard” or simply politically neutral cursing, did not find that debating style when they first heard of the coronavirus. That has been how they handled themselves for many years.
And those who focused on caring about others before the corona crisis will continue to be that way, as will those who did not. Crises, from a fender bender where the other person was at fault, or a global pandemic, will only reveal–perhaps amplify–previously developed characters.
- So, Will, how do we develop character? A. The same way we learn to play the piano, run a marathon, or pass algebra: focus and practice. To do anything well, we must focus and practice. Character development is exactly the same.
To start, we need to decide that being a person of good character is actually what we want. As with anything else in life, we need to decide where we want to go, before we can effectively start planning how to get there. And some are going to decide that they want the kind of things and benefits in life that are inconsistent with focusing on having a strong moral character. And for anyone, it is a huge benefit to actually examine what it is that we want. Without that introspection followed by a firm decision, we either wander about not knowing what we want and where to focus, or we think to ourselves that we want to be the good guy while acting differently–and never calling ourselves out on our own BS.
Many of us, myself certainly included, often tell ourselves that we don’t know what to do, to explain why we are not acting on something important in our lives. What is actually true in almost all cases, is that the what to do part is clear, but the doing part is hard. Here is an easy example; you need to break up with someone, but you don’t because you say to yourself, “I don’t know if this is the right thing. And I certainly don’t want to hurt their feelings. And there’s that party Friday–who would I go with? I don’t know what to do.” Yes, you do. You just don’t want to do it, so you pretend to be uncertain rather than admit to being weak.
Let’s relate this observation to deciding whether to choose the good character path in life, or something else. Almost all of us, if put to the test, would choose the character path. If we looked at the decision in a clear and focused way, it would be hard not to make the decision that being a good guy, a person of character, is the only way to go through life. But if we are not ready to do that, to make that commitment, we pretend that it is a hard decision, and not at all clear cut. We pretend that there are many shades of grey. We introduce phrases like, “This is a nuanced decision.” B.S. It is a clear cut choice. And hard to implement.
Saint Augustine was honest when he prayed, “Oh Lord, give me chastity, but do not give it yet.” Augustine, an early Christian theologian, major Cathjolic writer, influencer, and obviously a Saint, was not then ready for the chastity part of his character, and was honest and clear about it. Good thing he lived long enough to get past his unchaste days, else that part of Catholic history would have been very different.
What decisions have you made about your character, and what do you want that part of you, that part of your life to be? Have you made a clear and definite decision? Are you being disciplined in implementing that decision? I find that I have to recommit daily, and often more frequently than that. I have made a clear decision, and struggle with the implementation. But I do get a little bit better with each struggle.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.