Growing in Character

The poet, playwright, and author, Oscar Wilde, struggled with religion throughout his adult life. While he acknowledged belief in Catholicism, he lived a decadent, epicurean life as a pagan.

In his commentary on Ephesians, William Barclay quotes Wilde as saying, “The gods had given me almost everything. But I let myself be lured into long spells of senseless and sensual ease…”

Wilde then continues with this somber introspective reflection about his life.

“Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in search for new sensation. What the paradox was to me in the sphere of thought, perversity became to me in the sphere of passion. I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me, and passed on. I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber, one has some day to cry aloud from the house-top. I ceased to be lord over myself. I was no longer the captain of my soul, and did not know it. I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in horrible disgrace.”

Wilde’s sad self-assessment speaks to the issue of character. His personal evaluation is in agreement with the observations of Steven Berglas, a Harvard psychologist, and author of The Success Syndrome, subtitled “Hitting the Bottom When You Reach the Top.” He writes that many people who achieve great success “lack the character to sustain them” as they deal with the stress of their fame or fortune.

Berglas further asserts that the lack of character will manifest itself in arrogance, aloneness, adventure seeking that is self destruction, or adultery. Of course, these character flaws are not limited to the highly successful, but everyone is susceptible to Satan’s seductive snares. Even Christians.

For the past five weeks in this column we’ve been discussing some imperatives for spiritual growth. Knowledge. Discernment. Conviction. And skills. All of these, should culminate in the growth of one’s character. The true goal of all Christian education is developing a Christ-like character.

The Psalmist raises this important and pertinent question for everyone of us. “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? (Ps. 15:1).

The answer, while detailed in the next four verses is summarized in verse two. “He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart.”

This conveys the quality of character. Virtue. Goodness. Godliness. And inner uprightness of heart, mind, and soul.

D. L. Moody offered one of my favorite definitions of character when he opined, “Character is what you are in the dark.” In other words, when you are alone with your private thoughts, when no one is watching, what are you thinking? Feeling? Believing? Planning? Dreaming? Desiring?

Spiritually speaking, growing in character is about becoming a person “after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). It is seeking to be transformed, not conformed to this world (Rom. 12:1-2). It is focusing our thinking upon things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and praise worthy (Phil. 4:8). It is crucifying sinful, selfish, fleshly desires (Gal. 2:20). In essence it is knowing God, listening to the Word of the Spirit, and endeavoring to becoming like Christ.

In an age of conspicuous consummation, unbridled lusts, and compromising values, character will set you apart from the crowd. It will instill trust in your friends and brethren. It will serve as a positive influence for others. And it will provide steadfast endurance to remain faithful regardless of the consequences or the culture around us.

Think about it. The character of a good man or woman lives beyond the grave. J. R. Miller expressed it this way. “The only thing that walks back from the tomb with the mourners and refuses to be buried is the character of a man. That is true. What a man is survives him. It can never be buried.”

Indeed, character is more than what we say, do, possess, or achieve. Character is who we really are.

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


Filed under Sowing Seeds for Spiritual Growth

3 responses to “Growing in Character

  1. Peggy Hobbs

    Ken, a great blog this morning. One that makes a person look into themselves and always try to develope character that lives beyone the grave. Thanks.


  2. Ken, good thoughts. Happy birthday!


  3. Pingback: Weekly Recap: March13-17 | ThePreachersWord

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