How Big is your Character?

When last did you hear someone say “It’s character building”? Growing up, this was the standard response to any tale of hardship. It frustrated me no end. How big was my character supposed to be? When was it big enough to stop building, stop suffering? What is character anyway and why is it so important that it has to grow so big?

Character is who you are on the inside and how you present yourself to the world on the outside, your unique qualities. Years ago people spoke of virtues but now we hear about values,  habits of behaviour. Many of these are developed at a young age, without our choosing them. They are thrust upon us by parents, teachers, TV and the behaviour of others. Someone with a strong character displayed values of integrity, commitment, loyalty, ambition and perseverance. While someone who lied, cheated, was dishonest or unreliable may have been described as having weak character.

Today, I don’t hear much about character. Now we talk about rights. Bad behaviour is justified by your right to free expression or overlooked due to your sad, neglected or difficult upbringing. We use an abused past to condone our abusive behaviour, poverty gives us the right to steal and laziness is blamed on our genetics. Our younger generations are growing up without the boundaries offered by values and character. We are so concerned about adding to their stressful lives that we are stunting their characters and in so doing, we are slowly losing our own.  We excuse our physical laziness with the belief that life has become too busy for exercise. We don’t have time to cook our own nutritious food or get enough rest. “Fear Of Missing Out” has destroyed our commitment and social status has corrupted our integrity.

The world has changed so much over the last thirty years. As I have grown older, I have become more confused about who I am. I have been told I am over sensitive, up tight, prissy, a goody two shoes, too serious, old fashioned, insecure and a perfectionist. Personal development has brought my attention back to values and character. Now I realize that I value integrity, commitment, self-discipline, self-responsibility, courage and kindness. These are the character traits that are important to me. Looking back, the people who hurt me so deeply, who shamed me for these values and confused me, those people have different values.

I feel a weight lifted, unburdened. I can be me and be proud of who I am, proud of the character that I built through difficulty, endurance and perseverance. I feel huge gratitude for the lessons I learnt and the people who offered those lessons. Understanding has brought the realization that a character is never big enough. A character needs guarding and constant work. It is so easy for bad habits to creep in; little things which break down your character and diminish you. I always have the choice of who I want to be. If I find myself lacking, it is up to me to consciously fill that gap with a new value and to practice that value until it becomes habit, thereby building and strengthening my character, becoming a better human being.

Humanity is made up of characters, you and me. If I want to help the world, to better humanity, then it is up to me to stay conscious, keep learning, keep improving myself and keep moving…

Birdsong and Cloudscapes

Birdsong, it’s the start to every day. Even before the light of morning has eased through the darkness, the crow of the roosters and the sweet warble of thrushes, trickles into my consciousness. It is a new day, a new beginning, a chance to start over and do better than yesterday.

I am a morning person. I love the early hours when the village sleeps. I love to be outside, exploring today’s world. It is my way of practicing being in the moment, conscious. The sun catches clouds and they blush with its first rays, cerise, pink, apricot or gold. Sometimes great sheets of colour fill the sky and other times there are just wisps. The sky is never the same. Once that gift of the new day has gone, it’s gone forever. It is never the same again. Did you see it, or did it pass unnoticed?

We miss so much in our world because we are busy, rushing around DOING instead of taking time to just BE. Our stress levels rise and our worlds shrink. We get into the habit of Doing. When last did you hear the song of a robin or watch the rain fall?  We allow the gifts of the day to pass us by without a second thought.

Night and day, heat and cold, winter and summer: all things have their shadow side, their opposite. So too, Doing and Being. There is balance to our world and when ignored, our lives become off kilter. This is when dis-ease creeps in. First it may be anxiety and later depression. The blood pressure rises and so does the weight. We start with medication and as we get older, the amount of pills we drink gets more. We tell ourselves it’s because of our age. We fill our lives with the noise of TV and news, Facebook and Internet. We are numb to nature and the world around us.

If this resonates with you, start to make small changes. If you are not a morning person, make a point of noticing the evening sky. Take time to be really conscious whether you are stroking the cat or raking up leaves. Be aware of what you smell, hear and see.  Connect with something and you will connect with yourself, you will feel an energy stir within you, a swelling in your heart. Notice beauty in whatever form, feel grateful for what you have and for what you see. Gratitude is the best medicine there is and the more you practice being present, in the moment, the more gratitude you will feel. Every time the sun rises, you have a new day to practice with. Don’t wait for tomorrow, start today, start now, and keep moving…