By: Scott Armstrong
A while ago I had a conversation with a college student who I see a lot of potential in. I actually see gifts and graces in him to be a fantastic missionary someday. He is passionate about issues of justice and helping the world to become a better place.
At the same time, he recognizes that his morality is lacking. He wants to hold on to some habits and practices that are slowly eroding his effectiveness as a student, a leader, and a Christ-follower. Sadly, it appears that he is willing to change the world, but he is not willing to change himself.
Stevenson Willis wrote a book chock-full of wisdom and called, The Proverbs of Leadership: Principles for Leading Your People to the Pinnacle of Greatness. In it he reflects on this issue of character (pp. 110-111). I hope you find it challenging. I may send it to my university friend:
“As with all the great cities built to stand for the ages Jerusalem is established on a bedrock of stone. The outer wall which protects it is likewise constructed, for the footings that support it have been set to such a depth that it cannot be moved.
But what would happen if the plans for its foundation called for stones that were cracked? Or were it constructed with a base inadequate to carry its load? And what of the cities which might copy its design, unaware of the flaws concealed within? As sure as the sun will rise, each would collapse. Maybe not today nor tomorrow, but the downfall of all would be certain and inevitable.
And so shall it be in the building of your character. You may rise to a position of leadership based upon charisma or personality – and indeed succeed for a season – but such unstable stones are not sufficient to sustain you. If you are to endure through the challenges which will come and emerge with a character worthy of replication, your life must be established on a foundation that will last.
Integrity is the bedrock upon which character must be built; honesty with self, the first stone to set in place.
Do not bargain with life by coasting on talent or relying upon charm to reduce the payment required for success. Though such gifts have value they are often misused by the short-sighted to avoid sacrifice. If you are blessed with talent in abundance or skilled in the art of charm, do not deceive yourself and others by hiding behind your gifts to conceal your unwillingness to work. For, as many have discovered too late, the cost of your discount will be great and soon subtracted from your character.
Anything of lasting value requires that the price be paid in full before its benefit can be savored. Though talent alone may propel you to the summit, you will not be allowed to remain; for your conscience (and others) will quickly remind you that you did not pay the price which was necessary to get there.
Cheat by avoiding sacrifice and you swindle only yourself.
There are no shortcuts in the construction of character. Though the price for building it may seem expensive today, to correct its flaws tomorrow following a failure will cost even more. From this day forth be honest with yourself and pay with gladness whatever price is demanded for success in your endeavors”.