Character is something that has massive affect on those around us. Whether we know it or not, our character determines how we view the world and those around us. It doesn’t matter who you’re trying to lead–your family, spouse, co-workers, company etc.–because effective leadership begins inside. It’s an inside-out job.
I believe character begins at home. Who you are when no one is looking, is who you really are. I also believe that our character is shaped during our formidable years. There’s a scene in season two of Smallville, where Lex Luthor finds his long lost brother, Lucas. In the scene Clark Kent and Lucas talk about being raised differently.
Lucas said, “Clark tell me you and Lex wouldn’t have turned out differently if you were raised by his parents and he yours.”
Clark just shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know about that.”
“Trust me, you would be rich and miserable and Lex, he would be wearing plaid.” I find this scene so incredibly powerful. Because it shows how we’re raised, our character is shaped.
A Family Legacy.
On Sunday, July 16 our family traveled to Iowa for my cousin’s wedding. It was a true country style wedding, cowboy boots, jeans and flowers. My cousin was stunning in her dress and so incredibly happy. But what struck me the most was looking at the godly legacy surrounding our family.
My Grandparents–without whom we would have no family–are the prime example of what it means to have strength of character and integrity. My Mom’s sisters and their spouses, each have served God in their church and have raised God-fearing children. And then my parents, who raised my sisters and I to fear and honor God, but also to have integrity in every area of life. My prayer is that I will be instilling those same qualities into my children as they grow.
I have a wonderful family legacy and because of that, I’ve seen strong character on both my father’s and mother’s side of the family. The following day, July 17, we traveled to central Iowa for a family reunion. This reunion was for my Father’s, Mother’s side: the Barnhart family.
It was exciting to see how many people were there who loved God and were involved in their churches and had families of integrity and cared for their family history. It all started with two people who came across the country to Iowa to start a family and a legacy.
But what has family legacy taught me and why is it so important? 3 ways.
1. Legacy begins with you.
Not every person will grow up like I did by having a strong family line on both sides of people who were strong of heart, character and fear of God. You may have come from a broken home, where your father wasn’t around and your grandparents were drunks. Maybe you found out you were unwanted by your parents and became a forgotten child in the home.
It doesn’t matter what kind of legacy you’ve come from, a righteous and good standing legacy begins with you. You are the one who forges your destiny. You are the one who decides what you want to be and where you want to be in the next 5-10 years from now. But how do you make it happen? How do you take the tragedy of your formidable years and turn them around?
You’ve heard the phrase, garbage in, garbage out. What you put in your mind and heart, is what you’ll get out. Think of a field, what you decide to plant into the soil of your life, is what you’ll reap as a harvest. One of the best things you can do to grow as an individual is to read books, listen to podcasts, and attend events like conferences.
Yet the opposite is equally true, if you spend countless hours watching television, following the pop-culture norm, viewing garbage like pornography, your character will begin to degrade and erode. We find in the Hebrew scriptures, “when I was a child, I thought and spoke as a child.” Remember, legacy begins with you, but it’s how you think and act that determines the kind of legacy you’ll leave behind for others to follow.
2. Character begins in the heart.
The heart is one of the most important things God has given us. Our heart determines our character, our integrity and it ultimately shapes our worldview. But like above, what we put in is what we’ll get out. If you want to leave something for your family to experience generations from now, you have to get your heart right. Hope is all some cling to, but if it’s deferred in any way we lose heart, it can actually cause us to have bouts of depression. My father taught me that when we say ‘this is my heart’s desire‘ learn to put our eyes on God, our heart will be strengthened and character will rise within.
You’ve heard the phrase, “why do today what you can put off till tomorrow.” It’s a phrase a lot of people live by, but it’s not the answer. If we put off the desires of our heart and we allow hope to grow dormant in our spirit, we become cynical and our character can take a hit. Our heart demands integrity, but it takes making the choice to move forward in life, rather than allow life to hold us back.
But character begins in the heart and it’s time to set aside childish ways for more adult ways of handling life. Stop wallowing in self-pity that someone else has more than you, set yourself up for success and march toward it. In the end, you’ll find your character strengthened because you got your heart right.
3. Character shapes your future.
Your habits shape your character which determines your success for the future. Think about this; people are so concerned for their lifestyle and a better quality of life by running headlong into it, don’t realize they’ve just been setup for failure. Success isn’t monetary gain. If you believe pursuing that and achieving it makes you happy, go for it. But what happens when that happiness wains? You end up right where you started. Why? Because success isn’t determined by outward rewards.
The header of this point says, character shapes your future but how? I mentioned above that both good and bad habits shape our character. Reading, listening to inspirational podcasts and attending conferences will establish positive thinking in your heart. That thinking will begin to manifest itself in the future. So, what you focus on today is who you will become tomorrow and what you become tomorrow shapes your legacy for others to follow.
Whether it’s bad habits or good habits these things shape your ideologies, they shape your outlook on life and they ultimately shape your future. You can change negative consequences to your actions simply by changing your habits. They take time to develop, but they begin to shape our new normal we’ve fully developed that good habit.
If you want to shape your future and leave legacy for others to live by, set yourself up for success by creating habits that form a positive heart. It’s out of the abundance of your heart, the mouth speaks. So what you put in, is what you’ll get out. Do you want to see your children and grandchildren be people of integrity, then it must begin with you and it must begin today?
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