Do You Have a Character Deficit?
We can't love our neighbor anymore than we love ourself. This is a real challenge for many people, including myself. (Sometimes I think I'm loving myself only to later realize that I'm just giving in to laziness by being too easy on myself. And even worse than laziness, I realize I am giving in to fear and denial. More on fear and laziness at a later time.) And perhaps the really big challenge (in my eyes at least) is that we can't love God anymore than we love our neighbor. How we treat our neighbor is how we treat God. (Oophhh! That one hit low. But I guess it's true since Matthew 25:40 says, ...the King (God) will tell them, `I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!') Ok, ok, we have to treat our neighbors a little better it looks like. But how do we get started?
In every relationship there is friction. My mentor says that there is a miracle lubricant. (No, probably not what you think, nor is it politeness as suggested by Robert A. Heinlein, although this probably never hurts.) As oil is to a car, so character is to people. Character is the lubricant that allows our personalities to mesh. For example when a man "strays" in a marriage, it's because of a character flaw or a deficit in his character. It is more than the notion that "men's brains are in their pants." That's really the easy way out. "It's biological, I can't help it!" No, that excuse only works for animals. Human beings, and in this example, men, are meant to come up to a higher level. Regardless of where you think we came from, does any of us really want to stay at the level of animals? Whenever or wherever there is a deficit of character, we all pay the price in our relationships. A character deficit is not just a mental or emotional issue. It is a "heart issue." Another example is "conflict evasion." As in when a conflict, of any type, shows up and we avoid it. This may be part of the giving in to fear and denial issue that I admit to dealing with. It is one of the deficits of character that I'm working on now.
All these things happen because of missing ingredients in our character. The first law of relationship is "seek first to understand and then to be understood." At first I thought it kinda' sounded like Socrates' guiding principle, "Know Thyself," but more than knowing or understanding ourselves, we need to understand God. When we pursue character, we are pursuing God. When we pursue character, we are also pursuing other people's concerns (moving beyond ourselves). Where there is character there is compatibility. When a couple claims lack of compatibility as grounds for divorce, it is not just an excuse. At least one of them has a character deficit causing incompatibility. God wants us to come up to a higher level and do the right thing even when we don't feel like it. Character involves doing things we don't like doing.
If we avoid doing the things character calls for, then we avoid God. When we avoid the God of the Word, then we end up creating God in our own image. And our "god" will overlook whatever we do or don't feel like doing. We get on dangerous ground when we do this. "Character involves submitting to God's standards and surrendering to God our expectations of one another." To check and see if we have been doing this, all we have to do is look at how many relationships we have in our life that are healthy (or not). Be a man (or woman), and commit yourself to pursuing character.
~ thoughts on a strategy session by LSJ