Building godly character in an ungodly world

By Leonard Lauriault

When we moved to Tucumcari nearly eleven years ago, the church we attended was having a sermon series based on the Six Pillars of Character developed by the Character Counts youth ethics initiative (http://www.charactercounts.org/defsix.htm; accessed 9/20/07; 2 pp.). People realized that morals had declined because, almost as a nation, we’ve failed to instill principles of good character in our children. Quay County hasn’t been immune – just remember our unwed teen pregnancy rate or the tragic teen deaths in the last decade that occurred because parents or other supposedly responsible caregivers allowed or even encouraged poor character in their charges, sometimes even providing them with drugs or alcohol.

The Six Pillars of Character are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. These and other character-building principles were a significant part of my elementary education, being the first item of business every school day without interfering with my teachers’ ability to effectively teach the three R’s. (Maybe beginning the day with the Pledge of Allegiance led by a student in each class rather than over the loudspeaker, followed by a few songs and prayer helped the teacher get us focused on learning. Having a paddle in every classroom that the students knew would be used by that teacher probably didn’t hurt either.)

Of the Six Pillars, trustworthiness is most critical as sort of an umbrella over the other five. We must always be honest – never deceiving, cheating, or stealing. We must be reliable, keeping our promises and being careful what promises we make, but being courageous enough to always do the right thing.

Respect for others is based on what the webpage cited above called the Golden Rule (treat others as you want to be treated). We should be tolerant and considerate of others’ feelings, always using good manners out of respect. We shouldn’t be abusive or threatening, but should deal peacefully when mistreated or during disagreements.

Responsibility is demonstrated by doing everything to the best of our ability and trying to improve our abilities to become more productive, whether the matter is related to work, home, or country. Responsibility includes accountability, taking responsibility for our actions, and therefore, considering the consequences before we act. This also requires self-discipline and self-control.

Fairness is based in honesty and keeps us from taking advantage of others or taking more than our fair share. It leads to appropriate justice that’s tempered with mercy whenever possible, because we care for others. As self-discipline is of no use unless it’s accompanied by self-control, caring is of no value unless it’s acted upon through kindness to forgive and meet other basic needs.

All these characteristics, taken together, make one a better citizen. Citizenship involves doing one’s part for the greater, common good (which always includes the participant) – being active in community affairs, respecting authority, obeying laws, and protecting the environment.
Uncharacteristically, I’ve cited no scriptures in this article. I hope you noticed that because it wasn’t an oversight; rather, I wanted to show how easy it is to omit God, all the while hoping you’d realize that something was missing to help make the following point.
Our nation’s greatness is waning. In our attempts to regain some of our lost greatness, we’ve forgotten that the USA was founded on religious principles, particularly those that are distinctively Christian. If we don’t acknowledge God, he won’t acknowledge us.

This omission has largely led to the social and moral chaos we see today, which is accompanied by the absence of peace and prosperity that are among God’s blessings to those who acknowledge him. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about – remembering God’s blessings to those who acknowledged him.

All of the positive characteristics one could list originate from God. Since we’re created in his image, we should strive to emulate him. It’s uncharacteristic for us to try to improve our character (become more godly) without acknowledging God. So, let’s pursue these Six Pillars of Character because they’re God’s values, despite the Character Counts progenitors’ claim of no religious connection. Look at God’s word, the Bible, and you’ll recognize that fact. For example, you’ll learn that what’s often called the Golden Rule is actually the words of Jesus in Matthew 7: 12 and Luke 6: 31.

Raising children these days is difficult. The schools are helping to instill good character in youth, but that’s limited in its effect. The best help and the right place to start is with God. So, base your lives on God’s word and take yourself and your spouse and your children (or your parents) to church – it’s the right thing to do. Just be courageous and do it and hopefully the tragedies of the past will only be memories rather than recurring.

Leonard Lauriault, church of Christ