In the early years of our ministry we would take some of our grandchildren along with us for a number of days or even weeks. This provided us with the opportunity to add to the character training provided by their parents. I think that it is possible to develop character in characters.
I will identify character building exercises which we worked on while traveling. I would welcome your additions.
1.Be On time. When we go to church we arrive ten to fifteen minute
s early so we are on time. A man of character is on time.
2. Be complimentary, courteous and grateful: Don’t be critical, cynical, or complaining. We started out cynical and critical about road workers (why do they tear up roads that don’t need repair, why do they shut down roads and not work on them) and toward the end we were grateful (“Thank you for repairing roads even if we don’t know what needed repair.” Thank you for not working on the roads during the day — but rather working while traffic was light.”) When we started the trip we often took things provided for us without expressing gratitude. Toward the end we often heard and expressed “thank you,” “please,”” excuse me,” “please pass …”A man of character is courteous, gratefuland believes the best. I Corinthians 13
3. Listen more than you talk – James 1:18,19 When one person continually tells all he knows in detail, corrects others, and does not let others speak, he is a bore and others stop listening. We tried to practice principles such as “Don’t be a know- it -all, let someone tell you something you know without correcting small inaccuracies, think before you talk. Many time we hear someone say, “I didn’t mean that”, say something in the briefest way possible, think before you talk, study to answer, don’t tell everything you know, ask questions to draw out other people (Proverbs 20:5), be a learner not just a teacher (learn one new thing today). A man of character listens.
4. Pursue Peace – I Peter 3:11- “Seek peace and pursue it.” We identified some things that aggravated and irritated. We set goals to avoid doing things such as correcting everything other people said, pawing and picking on other people with our hands, kicking others, etc. We found that we could keep from stirring up strife by controlling our hands and feet and tongue. We had more peace toward the end of the trip. A man with character pursues peace.
5. Be wise not just smart (Proverbs 15:2) “The tongue of the wise uses knowledge wisely but the mouth of fools poureth our foolishness.” It was possible for some of us to pour out a lot of facts (smart) and be foolish in our actions. What good does it do for us to memorize the scripture “pursue peace” and live in constant strife. A man with character is wise.
6. Do one thing you don’t feel like doing. Some people believe you are not true to yourself if you don’t follow your feelings. Doing right regardless of your feelings develops character. We tried to apply this daily to our eating, sleeping, routine, schedule, wearing tie on Sunday, singing, etc. Do one thing daily that you don’t feel like doing but know you should. A man with character does right whether he feels like it or not.
7. Control your attitude. When we felt like having a pity party we tried to rejoice and give thanks. A man with character controls his attitude. He is not controlled by his attitude.
8. Don’t blame shift . We did not accept blame shifting but challenged each other to be responsible for our actions even if everyone and everything is mistreating us. A man with character assumes responsibility for his actions.
9. Serve. We tried to ask each other frequently, “What can I do for you today.” A man with character is a servant.
10. Finish the job. We emphasized that swimming is not done until the suits are hung up and dirty clothes in the laundry bag. Sleep is not done until sleeping bag is rolled up and bed is made. Eating is not done until dishes and food is put away. We frequently used the phrase “Finish the job.” A man with character finishes the job.
11. Follow a routine. A routine (showering, dressing, brushing teeth, praying, reading, etc.) will free you to do other things. We often asked, “Have you done your routine?” Or merely stated “Routine,” A man with character develops good habits.
12. Use the fork not the fingers We were not ashamed of our grandsons as they ate in many different homes. They used a knife not fingers to push food onto their fork. They cut food with their knives rather than bite the food off while it was on fork. They put butter knife on edge of plate rather than on table. They asked for items to be passed rather than reach for an item. A man of character has etiquette and manners. Poor manners and etiquette destroys respect and friendship.
13. Submit to authority. We tried to be friends to the boys but insisted that they recognize us as their authority. We are only “created” equal in relationship to God and his purpose. It is on the unequal things that authority rests — our age, experience, abilities, knowledge are the basis of authority. When these differences are not recognized and respected there is no authority and there can be no education since the student will be skeptical, cynical and believe that he knows better than the teacher. Symbols of dignity and respect are being eliminated at the expense of the student who calls those in authority by their first names. Titles such as Grandpa, honorable, uncle, Mr. President and reverend still exist in or culture but are uttered in a sarcastic tone: President Franklin Roosevelt was not “Frank,” President Ronald Reagan was never “Ron” but now President Bill Clinton is “Bill”. We appreciate the boys calling us by our titles for their benefit as symbols of authority. They were responsive when we reproved them for correcting or instructing or debating with us as equals. They will only learn when they respect and recognize us as authorities. A man of character will be submissive so he can learn from his authority. God has given us authorities to protect young people (sometimes younger than teens) from themselves. When they think themselves wiser than their teacher (parent, pastor, etc.) they deprive themselves of the wisdom of those elders and are doomed to folly and despair that results from following the ways of children. Note the results of children running homes, universities, etc. God sees a person who instructs, debates and considers himself wiser than his teacher a conceited sluggard. He is lazy – Proverbs 26:16 – “the sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason” He will not work for another nor do what his authorities have instructed if he thinks he knows better. This man wonders why he is rejected for a job or bypassed for promotion. Everyone knows he is foolish except himself.
14. Eliminate wrestling At the beginning of our trip our grandsons were competing in the World of Wrestling Federation in the car, motel and swimming pool. After two weeks they tore up their membership. Wrestling stirs up their emotions, makes everyone about them fearful of their actions and accomplishes nothing worthwhile. It is violent (property is destroyed), others are hurt when the uncontrolled bodies hit, other people avoid swimming lest their children get hurt, and everyone wonders when it will cease. Wrestling looks wrong, big bully sitting on lightweight, no control is exhibited and it goes on and on until some outsider intervenes on behalf of the two combatants who cannot stop themselves. Screaming and yelling usually accompanies the wrestling attracting attention to two childish adults. A man of character controls his body and pursues peace.