Sometime ago an item in Ripley’s Believe it or Not pictured a plain bar of iron which was marked as being worth $5. If made into horse shoes, that iron would be worth $50. If made into sewing needles, it would be worth $5,000. If made into balance springs for fine Swiss watches, that amount of iron would be worth $500,000.
The display illustrates the fact that the raw material is not as important as how it is developed. The same is true with human beings: The raw material of what we are is not as important as how we develop and what we become.
The measuring stick for this is not your bank account, the size of your home, the vehicle you drive, or your popularity. The measuring stick is your character. What kind of person are you becoming?
What can we do to develop our character in good ways?
Here are some thoughts:
An anonymous writer advises:
Watch your thoughts: they become words.
Watch your words: they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
A Swedish proverbs exhorts, “Fear less; hope more. Eat less; chew more. Whine less; breathe more. Talk less; say more. Love more, and all good things will be yours.”
C. Hoppe shares, “I hope that my achievements in life shall be these—that I will have fought for what was right and fair, that I will have risked for that which mattered, and that I will have given help to those who were in need, that I will have left the earth a better place for what I’ve done and who I’ve been.”
e.e. cummings adds, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.”
Soong Mei-ling writes, “If the past has taught us anything it is that every cause brings its effect, every action has a consequence. We Chinese have a saying: ‘If a man plants melons he will reap melons; if he sows beans, he will reap beans.’ And this is true of everyone’s life; good begets good, and evil leads to evil. True enough, the sun shines on the saint and the sinner alike, and too often it seems that the wicked prosper. But we can say with certainty that, with the individual as with the nation, the flourishing of the wicked is an illusion, for, unceasingly, life keeps books on us all. In the end, we are all the sum total of our actions. Character cannot be counterfeited, nor can it be put on and cast off as if it were a garment to meet the whim of the moment. Like the markings on wood which are ingrained in the very heart of the tree, character requires time and nurturing for growth and development. Thus also, day by day, we write our own destiny: for inexorably…we become what we do.”
Finally, Mark Buchanan stresses, “Wise people ask, Does the path I’m walking lead to a place I want to go? If I keep heading this way, will I like where I arrive? Fools don’t ask that. They keep making excuses for themselves, justifying and blaming, all the way to nowhere. They dupe themselves right to the grave. They never change their minds.” ■
—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa.