Ever notice how everything is made of littler ones? Doesn’t matter if it’s a cloud or a boulder or a mountain or a house or a spoon or a river. You can always break them down into smaller components. Pieces, ingredients, chemicals, cells, molecules, atoms. I’ve been thinking, that’s kind of how all of life works, isn’t it? The big things are always made of little ones. That huge catastrophic event that forever changed your life was composed of little unnoticeable details and happenings. A decision to do something dramatic or important or radical always came about from smaller things that all combined to build the resolve to do it.
Character works the same way. Whether it’s bad or good character, it is composed of hundreds, thousands, maybe millions, of individual experiences, decisions, actions, and words, that changed who you were into who you are. The word character can sound kind of vague and intangible, but it really isn’t. We just don’t recognize the little parts it’s composed of.
At STEP Advanced this past June, we spent a lot of time talking about the character qualities of a real leader. And every time, our leader always gave us specific examples of how to build those qualities. One of the things I picked up is that character is really just a series of choices, subconscious or not, that slowly develop who you are. A kid that’s a notorious liar didn’t get the reputation overnight, but slowly as he learned to lie more and in bigger ways. A young woman who is known for having a servant’s heart didn’t get her reputation overnight either, but by repeatedly seeking small ways to look out for the interests of the people around her.
Something that I want to be remembered for is joy. I want people to be able to say of me that I went through anything and everything with a joyful spirit. But how to become someone who has a joyful spirit (especially if that someone currently struggles with minor depression and a fair amount of loneliness, among other things) is the troublesome part. [bunny-trail]Actually, the ‘how’ is always the part of anything that bites me. I don’t do well improvising.[/bunny-trail] How do you just *be* joyful? Do you pray and pray and pray and in the night God will come and give you a joyful spirit while you sleep? Pfft, obviously not. I can pray until I’m blue in the face, but I don’t think I’ll ever just turn around and discover that I’m joyful. Why? Well, God uses time and experiences and choices to build character, rather than just imparting it to people at their whim. You have to be committed to the long haul to build character. You have to recognize all the little choices that make up the character, and choose the ones that will build the character you want.
I have to decide to seek the joy in the little things if I ever want to be known for being joyful in the big things. …And I realized this week that I don’t do a very good job of that. Lately I’ve kind of just let whatever emotion mess with me depending on the situation. And I had to ask myself… When I’m sick, do I seek joy from God, or just go with the flow and feel sorry for myself and slightly irritable towards my family? When I have to do something I’m not fond of, do I seek joy from God? Do I seek joy from God in the face of being treated in a hurtful manner? (I’m afraid at the rate I’ve been going I wouldn’t make a very good martyr…) If I want to be known for spreading joy, I first must have joy to spread. I first must find the joy in the little things.
What about you? What character quality do you want to be known for? How can you use the little things to become who you want to be remembered for?