A lesson in building character

May 10, 2012|Lisa Prejean

Have you examined your character lately?

Not the role you assume in a play, but your moral constitution.

What are your intentions? Your hidden agendas?

A little self-examination wouldn't hurt any of us. Just when we think we've arrived, we fall flat.

This character-building process begins early in life and never stops ... unless we allow it to do so by our reluctance to change or by our stubbornness and pride.

Over the years my husband and I have tried to train our children by discussing the choices we make in various situations. Sometimes we share a success story. Other times we just have to admit that we were wrong.

(If you ever want to capture your kids' attention, tell them about a time when you broke a rule or got in trouble.)

We've taught our children to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Kindred spirits are formed when emotions are shared.

The concepts that we've focused on in our home are basic yet so important in today's society where people are stressed, angry, lonely and depressed.

Here are some of the character traits we have attempted to instill in our children:

  •  Cautiousness vs. Rashness  — As social media is increasingly used in today's information age, the ability to verify truth becomes a difficult task. Verification takes time and caution. Someone who acts rashly rarely has all the facts.
  •  Compassion vs. Indifference — Each time one of my children has a difficult day at school, we talk about why people sometimes act the way they do. Sometimes the actions of others toward us make us more compassionate to the struggles and needs of others.
  •  Endurance vs. Discouragement — A person who has endurance keeps his eye on a goal and doesn't lose focus. Distractions and discouragement will be at a minimum if priorities are kept at the forefront.
  •  Flexibility vs. Resistance — Plans change sometimes, and we need to be willing to change with the plans. A flexible person is one who considers the needs of others above his own.
  •  Forgiveness vs. Bitterness — In granting forgiveness to another person, the forgiver is actually providing a gift to himself. Without the gift of forgiveness, a root of bitterness can begin to grow. Bitterness can consume a person and can turn him into someone he does not want to be.

These are just a few character traits to consider. Try making your own list based on what is important to your family.

For more character-building ideas, read "The Power of True Success: How to Build Character in Your Life," a book published by the Institute in Basic Life Principles in Oak Brook, Ill.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send email to her at

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