It’s said that Character is what you do when no one is looking. The definition is too narrow. The other extreme and all things in-between should be included. What do you do when everyone is looking, or when only one is looking, or a few are looking? Character is not in the number, it’s in the response.
I knew a man who liked to apply Proverbs 27:21 to himself. Sometimes, when he would talk about character in shepherding the local church, he’d smile and say, A man is tested by his praise. The proverb says, of course, that a crucible separates silver and a furnace separates gold. In the same way, a man’s character is revealed in how he responds to praise. A godly man is to be humble when praised. People praised this man a lot. I think they praised him largely because he had a sweetness about him. But every time he applied the proverb to himself, I sensed that he was oddly proud of being humble . . . proud of his own supposed excellence. I didn’t think he was at all humble. He was annoyingly proud in his certainty that he both was great and humble. Despite this oxymoronic example of prideful humility, is it true that good character largely is about being humble in the midst of praise? Again, that definition is too narrow because it considers only one part of the whole described in the Scriptures.
The Scriptures teach that Character is what you do under pressure.
Character is tested, for example, when you ponder reneging on your word because circumstances have turned difficult or inconvenient or unpopular. Biblical principle says the godly man does what he said he would do, even if it hurts; Psalm 15:4, Deuteronomy 23:21-23.
Men often fold under the pressure of difficulty, inconvenience or unpopularity, and then justify themselves by applying a salve of excuses for their failures. Sleep comes more easily that way.
It’s easier to be righteous when there’s no one scraping against your weaknesses. The apostle Peter was a natural alpha dog. But a character crack was revealed when he ate non-kosher food with the Gentiles and then flipped when he was under pressure from the Jews. In Galatians 2:11-14, Paul rebuked Peter for his duplicity. The graceful and great news is that the Lord faithfully shaped Peter despite his failure. Peter’s two epistles—written at least 14 years after Paul’s epistle to the Galatians—reveal that Peter grew into a consistently powerful force for the good of the Lord’s church.
There’s much more to consider on the topic of character. Coming blogs will look at how Abraham, David and Paul responded to various types of pressure. Lastly, we’ll look at Jesus’ perfectly powerful character in His responses to incredible pressures.