The Myth of Modern Culture's Definition of Character

Thursday, March 17, 2016

which way to go
I have noticed a large number of Twitter, Facebook and Blog posts mentioning the concept of character. Most of it is good stuff, but I have to say that there is a lot that is just dead wrong when it comes to what character is really all about. It is widely accepted in today's culture that what you do defines who you are. This belief states that your character is a result of what you do. To quote one Tweet, "Your character is the sum of your habits." Although this may seem lofty and wise, it is shaky at best, and just plain dangerous thinking.

This philosophy defines character as the fruit of our actions, when the truth is that our actions are the fruit of our character, or lack of it. Take an apple tree for instance. The apple does not produce the tree. It's the other way around. It is the tree that produces the apple. The apple is called the fruit, or the product of the apple tree. The fruit on a tree is the outward proof that the tree is healthy. For us, our actions or behavior are the fruit or outward indication of what is on the inside of us, or who we really are. That is character. Someone defined character as what you do when no one is looking. Jesus said it like this in Matthew 12:34 - "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." Our outward behavior is the barometer of the condition of our heart.

The other danger in this backwards thinking is believing that people can change simply by changing their behavior. While behavior modification is an important tool, it does not produce real, lasting change. This is why most modern-day drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs don't work. A person can act differently, but that doesn't change the person. Eventually their real character will reemerge and their bad behavior will follow. A rage-aholic can't stop his anger simply by being nice to people. All it takes is for some jerk to cut him off on the freeway and what is inside will come spilling out.

Changing one's character is a complicated task, but it can be done and can only come through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. We have to understand that we can not change our selves. Only God can truly change us from the inside out. I don't have time to go into the intricacies of character change in this post but you can read my post, Transformational Living. If you truly want to see change in your life, it has to involve much more than just changed actions and behavior. It will require a change in your understanding of who you are on the inside - a change of heart. When you do that, your behavior will naturally follow and the fruit produced in your life will be healthy.

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