I am reading Matthew Kelly’s book, Perfectly Yourself, and I would like to share some of his insights. He says we have a choice to either feed our ego or our character. Our ego is our sense of self-esteem or self-importance. Our ego tells us to impress others with how important we are or what we can achieve in life. We can see extreme examples in some politicians.
On the other hand, good thoughts lead to good actions, good actions lead to good habits, good habits lead to a good character. A person grows in character by practicing the virtues. Let review some virtues we should be practicing to develop a good character.
- Worship Only God. Jesus told us, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) Anything or anyone we put ahead of the Almighty is our god. Jesus singled out love of wealth as a false god, and the Bible mentions greed, covetousness, arrogance, pride and excessive attention to material things.
- Respect All Peoples. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) The English word “love” has many different meanings, but the Greek word, agape, used in the New Testament, means having respect, affection, and concern for the welfare of all peoples.
- Be Humble. Humility is truth. It’s a quality of being courteously respectful of others. It is the opposite of aggressiveness, arrogance, boastfulness, and vanity. Acting with humility does not in any way deny our own self worth. Rather, it affirms the inherent worth of all persons.
- Be Honest. Honesty and integrity are very important values. Any deception to gain an advantage or harm another is against God’s will. False statements, half-truths, innuendo, or failing to tell the whole truth goes against honesty. We must never engage in any form of theft, cheating, deception, innuendo, slander or gossip.
- Live a Moral Life. St. Paul tells us, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.” (1 Cor 6:20) Jesus gave a list of actions that are immoral uses of the body: evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, arrogance and stupid behavior.
- Be Generous. Jesus told us to share generously with those in need. We all have something to offer to someone in need. We should be willing to share our time, talents and treasures.
- Don’t be a Hypocrite. The only group of people that Jesus ripped apart were hypocrites. The Pharisees had forgotten the true spirit and intent of the law and became self-indulgent, self-righteous, snobbish, and greedy. If we claim to be Christians but do not let Jesus’ teachings guide our lives, then we are hypocrites.
- Don’t Be Self-righteous. No one is perfect; we are all sinners. Living a moral life means taking responsibility for controlling our own behavior. If we say or even think we are better than those “sinners,” then we are guilty of the sin of self-righteousness. We should never look down on, criticize, judge, condemn, or try to control other people. Judgment should be left to God.
- Don’t Hold a Grudge. Jesus said his followers should never hate, hold a grudge, seek revenge, retaliate or try to get even. He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your Father in heaven. (Matt 5:43-44)
- Forgive Others. Jesus said, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt 6:14-15) God is merciful and forgives our sins and failings. We must do the same.
Put these virtues into practice and you will build character.