“I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller.” -G.K. Chesterton
Yes, life is a story – it is a story God is telling for His own purposes and for His own glory.
What does that mean for us?
It means we are characters. Each one of us.
Especially in homeschool circles we tend to speak of character as something that we create, something that we must form. We seek out curriculums and programs because character is something we want our children to have.
But here’s the reality: They already do. And so do you.
It is not a question of whether or not our children or even ourselves will have character. It is only a question of what kind of character we will each be in the story we are in.
Character, according to the dictionary, is
- n: the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual – that is, what is characteristic of a particular person.
- n: a person in a novel, play, or movie. – that is, a person in a story (which is all of us)
- n: a printed or written letter or symbol. – that is, there is no other applicable definition.
So when we use character building in terms of curriculum or concerns or critiques, we are using in the first sense of the word. We want to direct, to shape, to change what qualities are distinctive to our children. Perhaps we see that whining is distinctive to their communication style. Perhaps we notice a tendency to deceive or get angry or be rude.
Perhaps we simply do not see what we had hoped to see: more love, more kindness, more self-control.
So we see their character as something we must plan for, laying plots and starting programs to get the change we want out of them. We think we need a character building curriculum.
But it’s a different kind of plot we need to see. We need to see it’s not our plot at all. The plot, the storyline, is being laid by God, and we are not the storytellers – we are only another character in their story.
We are not outside the story, directing and controlling and shaping to our vision.
We are inside their story, playing the part of a coach, a guide, a sidekick, and perhaps at times a villain.
Will we be a character worth imitating? Will we be a character that attracts our children or repels them? Will we be a character that seeks God’s way or our own every morning?
Character building is sanctification. The hard truth is that it’s easy to see what other people should do to grow, but hard to actually do what we know we must do to grow. Yet it’s our own sanctification God tells us to work out; though we’re to help others, we are not the ones making another’s sanctification happen.
We cannot force our children into character molds. We should rather coach them along the way. Each one of us – us, them – are becoming more and more something each day. Prune the bad somethings. Water the good somethings. Be patient, because seeds don’t sprout overnight and plants spend a long time growing before they put out fruit. That is character building, and it is happening every day.
Character isn’t something any of us lack. Character refers to what we are, to who we are.
Each task of every day is an opportunity to choose who we will become. Will we become more obedient, more faithful to our callings? Will we rely on Christ and live in prayerful dependence? Or will we be headstrong in our own way, resolute in our stubbornness? Will we give in to our feelings and our appetites? These are questions just as much for us as for our children. In fact, even as we shepherd and coach them in their character-building decisions (which is every decision), we are building our own character. How we respond to them is a character building choice, reinforcing one pattern or another.
Let us look less to an outcome we’re hoping to produce in another and remember that every task, every reminder, every interaction is an action being made by and through our own character. We are a character in their story. The kind of character that will influence them for good is one who is more concerned about the tone and truth of her own heart and mouth than about another’s tone or truth.
We remove the speck from our own character’s eyes because it’s only when we aren’t noticing it that we think it’s a speck. Once removed, we realize we’re the one with a log that we had entirely overlooked and been blind to.
We’re not to give up on character building for ourselves or helping the character growth of others, because we will reap that harvest if we do not give up. So, let us do good. Let us sow our own character into the ground. Let us pour ourselves out in watering. Let us trust Christ for the increase in His due season.
This February and March, starting February 22, we’ll be working together on our own character building and attitude reset as homeschooling moms with a live accountability session of Art of Homeschooling – free for all members of The Art of Homeschooling. Stay tuned for more details, or join today so you don’t miss out.