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Defining Character

Character is your core integrity. It's made up of your core values and beliefs.

Character doesn't necessarily revolve around doctrinal belief. It's not about what denomination you belong to, what the belief system of that denomination is, or how you go about defining yourself in religious terms. As a Christian, all things are irrelevant if you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Now, what does that mean? It means that Christ, if you believe what it says in the Bible, was sent by God, who recognized that man could not live up to the law of the Old Testament. Jesus recognized that God was trying to reveal Himself to us in the law, and that if we followed his Commandments, we would be all right.

But it's not that simple. Even to the best of our ability as human beings, we're never going to be able to live up to that expectation. We can't. Only God can because only God is great--He's perfect, in that He can do no sin. That's why God sent Christ as His sacrifice for us. Christ shed his blood on the cross for us as believers, and that's the whole aspect of grace. Everything starts and ends with belief.

In today's world, the concept of grace is so foreign to us that we have trouble opening up to receive it. Ultimately, though, its just a matter of accepting what God wants us to have. We think we have to do X,Y, and Z, or that we have to do penance, but that's already been paid for. The price has already been paid, and as a result, we have true freedom. That's the cornerstone of faith.

So a man's relationship to himself begins with the relationship to his God. It's not a matter of following certain rules or going to a certain church or "making yourself good," because you can never be good in an absolute sense. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much discipline you have in your life, you'll never measure up. No man has ever measured up to God. That's when we come to the realization that it's not about us. It's about how we fit into the grand scheme of this thing called life. The vision of how we fit in is an extension of our character.

Character is not a thing you can turn on and off. It's not a light switch. It's more than just a choice--it's a way of life. Character is formulated in you beginning from the day you were born. It defines who you are as an individual. It's about making choices. It's not something you just read about in a textbook, or even in a book like this. It's something you pave with your thoughts, your words, and your actions. It's pragmatic. It's how you lead your life.

What does it mean if I believe that a man has strong character? Well, he's showing me a number of things. He's showing me that I can trust him, that his word is good enough for me. It means that his outlook on life isn't just about material gain or about making a dollar. Instead, it's about "How can I help you?"--because that man knows that the hand most often to give is most open to receive.

Character is about the giving of self, service before self, which is one of the models of all our service academies. Service above self means the ability to put yourself in harm's way or give of yourself where it may cost you something, but you do it anyway, because it's the right thing. If I'm evaluating an individual, whether I'm going into business, battle, or athletic competition with that person, I want to know what his primary focus ion life is. Is he all about himself, or is he about service? Would I trust him in a foxhole? Would I trust him looking after my back? Would I trust him looking after my family if something happened to me? Can I implicitly trust that individual? Bottom line: can I take that man's word as his bond? Those are the things that define character for me. From that flows out all the ancillary things about trustworthiness, about ethics, about all the other things associated with living a life of character.

It may be all but impossible to create character under fire. Ideally, we take time to consider and create our character before the battle begins, and them conflict becomes a test of our character, a proven ground for it, instead of a place to develop it. In other words, when you enter the arena, whether we're talking about sports, war, business, or your private life, you better come to the situation armed with the kind of character that will get you through it.

An excerpt from
Rules Of Engagement
Finding Friendship, Faith, and Strength in a Disconnected World

by Chad Hennings

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