May 3 – Character building through action

“Character is not in the mind; it is in the will.” (Fulton J. Sheen)

I cannot think my way into having the character I wish to have, it is only through my actions that it is built. That is my takeaway from this quote. My will drives my actions, and it is those actions that reveal what my character is.

I have always been a believer in the notion that actions speak louder than words. Too often I have heard people say the right things, while their actions betray their real beliefs and intentions. I have watched as celebrities, politicians and athletes who have been caught doing something wrong, stand before a set of microphones and read statements carefully prepared by their publicist. They do so with a practiced appearance of sincerity, sometimes even offering a tear or two for emphasis. All too often the actions they take after the presser show the statements for what they are – empty air.

I am not saying that all who publicly apologize are lying. There are people who make mistakes and are clearly remorseful and make amends. What I am saying is that I put no stock in the words of their apology and public statements. Instead I wait to see what happens next, and next, and next.

I have made my share of mistakes in the past. I have hurt people around me with my words and deeds. I was taught at an early age to sincerely apologize when I have done wrong to someone, and I do that. But, I also have been taught in life that it is not what I say, but what I do afterwards that counts. If I make a thoughtless comment to my wife and injure her feelings, then I must definitely apologize. But, if a short time later I make the same kind of thoughtless remark, then my previous apology is instantly laid bare. Only when I change my behaviors will her faith in me be restored.

Thoughts are easy to change. In my head I can think of how I want to be and act. It costs nothing and takes very little energy. And, thinking in different ways is a very necessary first step to changing something about my character. My true thoughts and actions are almost always aligned. Getting my head in the right direction, though, won’t change anything. It is only by the force of my will, acting on my behaviors that my character can be shaped.

I believe that my life is always open to improvement. While I don’t think I have any major character flaws, I am always looking to be just a little better today than I was yesterday. Today’s quote reminds me of a truth that I hold dear. Namely that my character is revealed by my actions, not by my thoughts or words. As I continue on my path of life, and look to make the tweaks and changes I desire, I will always have the spirit of this quote in mind.

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