[Opinion] Character Formation? Watch Your ‘Watch’
In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle calls the character, or habitual formation of a man, his ‘second nature.’ Character is the combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person or thing from another.
Again, it is the description of a person’s attributes, traits or abilities. How is this character formed? This article is aimed at assisting parents and young people on the way of forming a good character for their children or for themselves.
The battle for Christian character begins in the transformation of the mind by the empowerment of God’s Holy Spirit. Christian writer and speaker Zig Ziglar has often said, “You are what you are, and you are where you are as a result of what has gone into your mind.… You can change what you are, and you can change where you are by changing what goes into your mind.”
This article has been inspired by two bible quotations; “as a man thinks, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7) and “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
WE NEED TO WATCH OUR “WATCH”
A noble, all-round character is not inherited. It does not come to us by accident. A noble character is earned by individual effort through the merits and grace of Christ. God gives the talents, the powers of the mind; we form the character. It is formed by hard, stern battles with self.
Conflict after conflict must be waged against hereditary tendencies. We shall have to criticize ourselves closely and not allow any unfavourable trait to remain uncorrected.
In the process of forming decent, kind, respectable and morally good character, we need to watch our “watch”, not the watch we carry on our wrist, but ‘watch’ as in: W-word, A- action, T-tongue, C- character, and H- habit
1. The ‘W’ is Words:
As Christians, the sorts of words we use are of great significance. It has been said that “You are what you know” and what you know is what you say. For others to know what sort of person we are, it depends largely on the kind words we convey to them.
For example, for someone to know that you are polite and a nice person, it will largely depend on what you say. It can also be stated differently; for us to be judged as honest and truthful people, the sort of words we use will count significantly.
Our choice of words will let people know our feelings; whether we are tilting towards love or hatred. Our feelings and emotions are all expressed in words.
Therefore, it will depend on our choice of words for people to know our aspirations, desires, fears and anxieties, we must be careful of the sorts of words we use and we must be wise in our word usage. In the Bible, we are urged to use pleasant and comforting words; for example in Proverbs 16:36 it says: “Pleasant words are honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bone.” Again Proverbs 12:18 says: “Reckless words pierce like a sword.”
2. The ‘A’ is Action:
Our words are usually expressed in actions. Action, I must tell you, speaks louder than words. How? Decide anything at all you can think of, the end product is always
on your mind. Your decisions are stored deep down in your memory. We are able to know and see what is on your mind based on what you do. (That is, through your actions). For example, you decide in the morning that as soon as you enter the classroom, you will be serious.
You enter the class and remain quiet just to listen to your teachers; you go through your notes, copy assignments, answer questions in class, and laugh along with friends when something funny or exciting happens in class.
A teacher makes a joke during class hours, as a good student; you laugh and stop when everyone else has stopped. If you go through that classroom routine very well, I can assure you that such classroom actions will inform your teachers and friends that you are serious students who want to acquire knowledge and know something.
If you want to be violent too, it comes clearly and strongly through bodily or facial actions. Therefore, anyone who wants to form good character must be careful of his or her actions; it speaks to the outside world. Shakespeare, said “there is no act to find the mind’s construction on the face”. The “mind’s construction” manifest in actions.
3. The ‘T’ is Tongue (speech):
The tongue is the vehicle through which our ideas, words, emotions and feelings are transmitted. The tongue gives us the ability of speech. If you are filled with wisdom, knowledge and intelligence, it is the tongue that transmits all that.
If you are full of love, care or even hatred, the tongue is the tool to express that: many conflicts, wars, civil unrest have been caused by the wrong use of the tongue, many people in the Bible received healing and a cure by the tongue; many families and friends have been either united or divided by the tongue. More often than not we make friends or lose them by the manner we use the tongue. Carefully reflect on the following bible quotations admonishing verses;
a. Proverbs 18:21;
“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
b. Proverbs 15:2;
“The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.”
3. James 3:5-8; “…The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
We really need to tame the tongue in order to build a sound character for ourselves.
4. The ‘C’ is Character:
The ‘C’ stands for character. That is what we are considering here. The qualities that make something clearly different from anything else or a quality that makes something interesting or attractive. We need to watch our character because it makes us different from others.
There is a Jamaican proverb that says “When you meet a man, you judge him by his clothes” and a Spanish proverb goes like this “a smart coat is a good letter of introduction.” Just as some people present or wear decent clothes to communicate to the outside world, our character defines us and that is what we present to the outside world- to show our worth. The values we are made up of is what we communicate to the world as ‘character’. Our character
shows who we really are; to the point that we can not run away from it. Character, in Ghanaian parlance, is like pregnancy, it cannot be hidden.
5. The ‘H’ is Habit:
A habit is a person’s usual or normal practice especially one that cannot easily be given up. For example, “I bite my nails out of habit.” To break a habit is to give it up. For example, I want to stop insulting but I can’t break the habit.
At certain stages, you realize that we do things because of habit and not because we have decided to. Habit is something that we cultivate over time which eventually becomes part of us. At a certain stage we do it with less effort or without thinking about it.
With time, it becomes a routine. One philosopher said “sow a thought, reap an act, sow an act and reap a habit, sow a habit and reap a character”.
Someone said that habit is something that the individual does every day. That is why we have ‘habitual latecomers’. The famous philosopher, Aristotle, once said that ‘’we are what we do repeatedly” The dress worn by Catholic Nuns is called a habit because it has become their identifiable or distinctive mark. Get ready to build and wear your best “identifiable or distinctive mark” habit as you watch your W.A.T.C.H!
W.A.T.C.H is what we need to check in forming a good character for ourselves but in the subsequent editions I will touch on outside factors that play a significant role in forming our character.
3. The Media
Source: Rev. Fr. Clement Nyarko