What Is Authentic Character?
D.L. Moody, founder of Moody Bible Institute once said, “Character is who you are in the dark.” This is very true. Authentic character comes from what we do and how we live when no person is watching. This authenticity will transcend in our personal and professional lives. Sadly, we are living in a world full of scandals, arrests, and corruption to name a few. This sometimes happens with people we look up to and inspire us. It is both disheartening and discouraging as that person loses credibility, and we lose trust in people. In other instances, there is pure hypocrisy among people. Hypocrite is a Greek word that refers to an actor who wore a mask to depict a mood or certain character (MacArthur Study Bible). A hypocrite is a person who is pretending to be someone he or she is really not. Outwardly, they do all the right things to appear good before others, but inwardly, they are full of greed, selfishness, and have a hardened heart. It’s just a matter of time this kind of person’s real identity will be revealed.
Let’s go over the problem of character: people want to appear good on the outside, but are not willing to change on the inside. They will talk, but not walk. They are hearers, but not doers. They will listen, but be reactive, but not be planners and be proactive. Before we can exemplify authentic character on the outside, we first must be willing to change on the inside. In this resource, we will discuss five authentic principles to develop authentic character. When these principles are practiced, they will transform your life, and make a difference in other peoples’ lives. Ultimately, my hope is that these principles will help you develop a life of authentic character!
Edification Vs. Entertainment
Edification means to build and strengthen your mind. Our attitude, work ethic, and desire to learn will determine our success. When we build or edify our minds with valuable, noble, and productive things, this will increase our knowledge and shape how we live. Conversely, when we fill our minds with entertainment, vanity, and time wasters, we become increasingly lazy. Further, we become more susceptible to entertainment the more we are exposed to it. It becomes habitual and begins to pattern our lives into lethargy, laziness, and indifference. We all need balance in our lives. We were never meant to work excessively at the expense of our health and relationships with others. However, debauchery (excessiveness) of entertainment has little to no value in our growth. Instead, developing habits of mind edification will help you grow. For instance, I make it a priority to constantly learn my craft on my instrument. I will diligently study videos, read through books to enhance my reading skills and understanding of music history, or play the drums to develop new concepts. This edification principle motivates me to be a better drummer and teacher at my craft. Motivational Speaker Brian Tracy once said that, “Good habits are difficult to develop, but easy to live with, while bad habits are easy to develop, but difficult to live with.” It can be difficult to develop edification, but once it becomes habitual, you will become prosperous, living an ordered life of continuous growth and improvement.
Humility means to lower oneself in relation to others’ gifts and talents, and being meek of his/her own importance and significance. C.S. Lewis states: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” People often believe humility is putting yourself down to help build other people up. This is a wrong view of humility. Humility means to remove the focus off of you and place the focus on the other person. Humility is to recognize who you are, but to give credit and honor to others. The Scriptures further expounds the significance of humility: “This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit” (Isaiah 66:2). “He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way” (Psalm 25:9). “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). On the contrary, our society has become engulfed with a me, myself, and I mentality. We live in a world that promotes pride, which is the direct opposite of humility. The attitude of many is, “What’s in it for me”, or “How will I benefit from it?” People only seem to be concerned with helping others if they’re first going to be helped. It’s a “Scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back” way of living. Humility is sacrificial, commending the gifts of others without expecting to receive anything in return. While a humble attitude may not bring instant gratification, it will always result in being honorable.
Toxic Vs. Lasting Relationships
It has been said that the people you hang out with will best define your character. This is true in many ways. Relationships can either build you up or tear you down. Lasting relationships will build unity and fellowship with others along with bringing out the best in you, while toxic relationships will cause dissension, bad habits, and end up bringing out the worst in you. Furthermore, a relationship is based off of influence. We become influence by someone not by what they say, but by how they live. This can be good or bad. When a person is incompetent, lazy, a compulsive liar, and frequently curses, this will directly impact our lives whether we are aware of it or not. However, when a person is diligent, ethical, hardworking, honest, and genuine, this will positively affect our lives. We will be influenced by their pattern of life and want to be imitators of that. Developing authentic character directly relates to our relationships. Therefore, it is essential to seek friends who not only have commonalities with you, but ones that will encourage you, challenge you, hold you accountable, love you, and will be there for you in good and bad times.
Serve And Don't Be Served
We often hear this the other way around. As we alluded to above, our world has been shaped to put ourselves first before others. However, authentic character is about putting the other person before you. The late Motivational Speaker Zig Ziglar said, “You can have everything you want if you help enough others get what they want.” Serving others roots from a sacrificial and selfless heart. So often, we put our own needs first and neglect others’ needs. We become immersed with our schedules that we forget to nurture and serve others. Serving is about prioritizing others, regardless if we get credit/recognition or not. Finally, love is the foundation of everything we have discussed in this principle. If love lacks, the intent is selfish, regardless of the action. While our world has various kinds of so called “loves” (e.g., infatuation, feeling, emotion, conditional, etc.), the love I’m referring to is an agape love. This is a love that is altruistic, sacrificial, unconditional, and selfless. This love will always manifest itself in actions and good deeds toward others. The Scripture says, “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” -1 John 3:18. Love will propel a heart to put others peoples’ needs before yours.
Develop A Life of Total Integrity
In the book, Becoming A Person Of Influence, John C. Maxwell says, “The need for integrity today is perhaps as great as it has ever been. And it is absolutely essential for anyone who desires to become a person of influence.” Integrity is the foundation of other qualities, including: trust, respect, kindness, and empathy. Integrity is not based off of externals such as your reputation, circumstances, credentials, or authority. It comes from within. We can measure our integrity by assessing our motives. Do we want to treat others the way we want to be treated? Will I compromise my honesty if I can benefit from something? Will the influence of others cause me to waver my morals? These are excellent questions you can candidly ask yourself. Let’s go over the cultivation of integrity. First, integrity starts off by having a clean conscious. When our conscious is clear, we can think vividly, and act in accordance to our morals. When our conscious is defiled, we end up silencing it, and are not able to operate in an honest way. Having a clear conscious will also help us to identify and abstain from any white lies or selfish intentions. When the mind is clear, the voice of our conscious is clear. It will bring conviction and sorrow over wrongdoing. Second, integrity will result in others to trust in you. Trust is what holds all relationships together. Apart from trust, everything falls apart. Why are some long-lasting marriages or businesses together without divorce? Because trust is centered in these relationships. Lastly, integrity leads to an authentic reputation. D.L. Moody wrote, “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.” When we make a conscious decision of committing to integrity, we will be held in high regard by others and perceived as credible and authentic.
Modeling authentic character is the epitome of an authentic person. We not only should learn these principles, but live them out. As a Christian, I am always reminded of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ: “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16). It’s not what we say or what we did that transcends authentic character, but how we live, and our continual commitment to live out these principles.