χαρακτήρ

Every time a military member reenlists or accepts promotion, he or she is required to reaffirm the oath of enlistment or oath of office, both of which include these words:

“I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

This vow, taken by generations of patriots who have backed it up with actions, has preserved the values of our nation, embodied in the Constitution, and if continually upheld will sustain those values for generations to come.

As we look to developing and sustaining our personal values, it might be helpful for us to adopt a similar level of intentionality and commitment by periodically reaffirming that oath with one word change:

“I will support and defend my character against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

The word “character” comes from Greek and means “to carve” or “to engrave”. It is the pattern engraved in us by the repetition of thoughts and behaviors along which we make moral and ethical choices. Its development is influenced by a variety of sources including family, friends, people we admire, life experiences and media of all sorts.

Like the Constitution, our character also has enemies. Some are foreign (outside us) and some are domestic–they come from inside us. Foreign enemies that assault our character may be friends with destructive habits, family members who manipulate and use us, individuals who devalue or abuse us, people who discourage adherence to moral codes or encourage us to lay aside that which promotes health in body, mind or spirit. Domestic enemies are also many, and may take the form of unmanaged feelings, laziness, addictions, selfishness, procrastination and poor self-image, to name a few. It is vital that we stay alert in the support and defense of our character against these enemies-within-and-without, for they can destroy us.

Instead of letting our characters be determined by default (not making conscious choices), or by reaction (to the behaviors or words of someone else) we must adopt a higher level of vigilance. We must work pro-actively to protect our character so we will not be hijacked by our emotions, our actions will continue to support our core values and our goals, we will not give in to harmful self-indulgence and we will not allow ourselves to be defined by people who have hurt us.

Is your character developing as you desire, or are you letting your life be “engraved” by “enemies”? Are the patterns that are being carved into you by repeated behaviors and thoughts leading you to a life lived with integrity and honor, or to one that is less principled?  If there is any level of dissatisfaction in your answer, today is the right day to make a change. One way to begin your battle plan for the preservation and strengthening of your character is to raise your right hand and repeat these words:

 “I will support and defend my character against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Keep in mind that every other vow you make in life depends on how well you fulfill this one.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Will Durant

The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers

Copyright © 2020 bendertales.com

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