April 26. “Character is what you are in the dark.” (D. L. Moody)
In my mind, character and integrity go hand in hand, so this quote rings very true for me. I am a believer that acting with integrity or being of good character means that you do the right thing even when no one is looking, in the dark if you will.
There is a saying that nothing good happens after 2:00am. It refers to things that happen after the bars close, or when people have been out carousing. The reason the saying works so well is that under the cover of darkness, and fueled by alcohol or some other substance, inhibitions drop. People are more likely to do things that are “out of character” for them during the wee hours of the morning. All too frequently things are done which are regretted, and for which there need to be consequences.
Darkness, whether literal or figurative, can have the effect of hiding things. It makes the casual observer less able to see what is happening. When it is dark, people believe that they can get away with things that ordinarily they would not. This is where character and integrity come in.
People of high integrity, and people of character, act the same in the dark as in the light of day. When I have made mistakes in judgment, believing that I would not be caught, it was a sign that my character was not right.
In these days of ubiquitous cameras, internet snooping, GPS tracking and the like, there is realistically very little time what we spend unobserved. But, those times do still exist. And, if my character and integrity are in order, then my actions will easily survive the light of day.
April 27. “Passion, for all its dangers, needs uncaging if we are to move towards completeness as human beings.” (Philip Sheldrake)
The image of a free spirited artist living life to the fullest is one that has been romanticized in plays, movies and song for generations. The idea that to really live means that I find a way to live a life filled with passion is a common theme in literature and drama. In these romanticized stories, people who work in offices are shown as lifeless, listless drones. Many times the colors chosen for those scenes are muted and drab, furthering the idea that these poor saps are without passion.
The reality is that everyone has passions in life. For every person I know there is some activity, some cause, some hobby, some person that riles them up and gets their blood pumping. Even people who spend their days toiling in boring cube farms have passions in life.
In this quote, Sheldrake is reminding us that we must all find and feed our passion from time to time in order to be complete. For some that is an easy task, for others it takes a bit of work.
As the quote also reminds us, passion can be dangerous. We hear stories about “crimes of passion”, or interludes fueled by passion, and they usually have bad endings. Unbridled passion can be very dangerous indeed. Just as being passionless can sap the life out of a person, so too can unbridled passion lead to a person’s demise.
In my career I have been counseled about my passion. At times I have let the passion for doing things right, and for whatever position I had on a topic get the best of me. I have a tendency to argue a point until it has been thoroughly clarified (in my opinion), and people have come to see things my way. Rather than being persuasive, this approach usually causes people to erect edifices of resistance to my views, even if they themselves might benefit from them. In my life, this is a clear case of my own passions gone awry.
I have learned (most of the time), to channel that passion in a way that does not offend, and instead does persuade others. And, importantly, I have learned the hard way that not everyone will ever agree with me, and that has to be ok if I am to survive in the world.
To be sure, passion can be dangerous for me. At the same time, to live without a sense of passion would, to me, be like dying a little every day. I must have something in my life about which I care deeply, or it would make no sense to rise from bed in the morning.
When I find myself unhappy, or unfulfilled, I look for those things that arouse my passions. I look to write, to do photography, to read, or to hang out with friends. These are where my positive passions lie.
My near future has some challenges in it. It would be easy for me to slip into a state where I am just droning along, getting things done that must be done. I know, though, that for my own mental health I must find and feed my positive passions.
As I am writing on this early Sunday afternoon, I am thinking maybe I need a list. I think I need to make a list of things that excite my passion, that I can partake in for one hour increments over the next few weeks.