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Our Choices Determine Who We Become

I have listened to graduation speeches and wondered, “What would I say if I had the opportunity and responsibility to speak?” In all seriousness, this is what came to mind.

I am neither Fork in the roada genetic nor an environmental determinist.  In plain terms, though I recognize that the way we are “wired” and what we have “experienced” impact us tremendously,  I ardently believe our choices determine who we are and who we will become during our lifetime.

It saddens me when I watch people run from the opportunity to take responsibility for their lives. Too often they seem to possess faulty perceptions, wallow in woundedness that circumstances and people have inflicted on them, or passively rely upon the well intended though misguided over-involvement and support of others. In essence, some surrender their lives to self hatred, pain, or dependency. Life for them becomes a crippling captivity rather than the adventurous journey it is meant to be.

Viktor Frankl decisively contends that the surrender to a living death is indexa matter of personal choice. As a holocaust survivor, he saw and learned much from personal experience about the nature of humanity.

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl states:

We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offered sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of Viktor-Frankl-quote-2circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

…in the final analysis it (became) clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him—mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Pg 75

Most people have heard of Stephen Covey’s life changing book,  Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Few, I think, are aware of its subtitle: Restoring the Character Ethic. In this work, Covey builds upon Frankl’s compelling argument for personal responsibility as an advocate of proactivity.

Just as the great philosopher Plato stated that “an unexamined life is not worth living,” Covey challenges each of us to scrutinize our lives, our motives, our principles, and our paradigms—all as a part of embracing responsibility, truth, choice, and character. In doing so, we intentionally make them a part of who we are.I want to challenge you to do the same.

Covey states: The more we are aware of our basic paradigms, maps, or assumptions, and the extent to which we have been influenced by our experience, the more we take responsibility for those paradigms, examine them, test them against reality, listen to others and be open to their perceptions, thereby getting a larger picture and a far more objective view. Pg 29

This is not a call to turn your back upon all that you have lived and believed to this point in your life. To the contrary, it is about seeking truth that liberates and eradicates the lies that enslave us. We must be vigilant in determining what principles we will live by and die for. Principles inform and guide our decisions; they impact our choices, and consequently determine Good enemy of bestwho and what we will become in this life.

As the famous author, Emerson, declared, “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I cannot hear what you say.

None can pretend forever. What we truly choose to become will not be hidden forever. We can be sure the truth will find us out.

So my charges to you, the reader,  are these: Become a person of strong character. Live proactively, take responsibility for your life, your choices, and who you will become. Resist the temptation to live a mean, self centered life and passive existence. Pursue truth, truth that establishes the maps through life and teaches you how to live it effectively. Find the answers to the big questions about life’s meaning and why God has put you here.

I sincerely wish you the very best of God’s blessings.

We humans have an aversion to reading books others have decided are “good” for us. (Bet it goes back to an innate desire to make our own decisions—wiring (free will and fallen nature) — and post educational trauma =) Therefore, I will indulge myself only to inflict a suggested reading/viewing list. I could go on for pages, but will stop at these. I can only hope you will experience the life changing “lift” offered by the truths within these works if you choose to consider them and break free from the “drag” of experience and genetics.

Isaiah 40:28-31
Books:Atlas Shrugged                                                                                                                                                Boundaries by Cloud &Townsend                                                                                                                        Safe People by Cloud and Townsend
Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning
Covey’s 7 Habits of highly Effective People
C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity
McGee’s Search for Significance
Peacemaker, by Sande
Works by Os Guinness and David Noble

Proof texting 3: Touch Not the Anointed

This is an excellent article that addresses a commonly misunderstood Biblical passage whose misapplication can have disastrous implications.

The Question of Authority and Anointing by Lois E. Gibson

Linked with the author’s permission.


Simply Complex

Do you see things in black and white? Do you see the parallel between the game of Othello and  life?


Life is simply complicated. Mercy and justice are flip sides of the same coin. Good and evil are not mutually exclusive. Instead, they confusingly coexist –often co-mingled. Formulas and check lists of right and wrong, alone, cannot help one navigate the ambivalence that arises in relationships. Boundaries, forgiveness, discernment, and grace, however, are tools in the tool box of those who are master craftsmen at life. Each is easy to misunderstand and misuse. But with commitment, all can produce life changing outcomes when wisely applied.

Sadly, our culture is so ignorant of these concepts and so lacking in healthy practitioners that division is the hallmark of our times. As the home goes, so goes the nation. As a generation shunned the black and white thinking of legalistic religion in pursuit of self actualization, passionate pursuit of sophisticated life skills and deep concepts modeled by a simply complex Lord were cast aside. We have become a spiritually bankrupt nation.

Fear of commitment abounds. Marriages happen later and less often than in past generations– and when it does it is often between battle scarred survivors of unhealthy relationships. Families are in decline. Fewer and fewer couples dare or care to risk their cash, comfort zones, or careers on children. In doing so, the safety net of family and all the skills that arise from navigating those challenging waters are lost. Again, people become what they despise as they lapse into an over simplified black and white world.

I recommend the following article. The political observation makes the case for what goes on in personal relationships as well. This is not a call to throw off convictions. Rather, this is a challenge to explore the shard in  your own eye while pointing your finger at the speck in someone else’s. We all do it. It is a basic premise of group therapy. Individuals can see in others what they are reluctant or unable  to see in themselves. It is powerful concept. Iron sharpens iron in much the same way that relationships refine us–if we will stay the course and learn how to use discernment in dealing with people, to forgive offenses while still setting appropriate boundaries, and to live a life of grace. Life concepts can…. take a minute to learn, but a lifetime to master.

Character Matters

How I spend my money, where I go in my free time, and what I do at home is no one else’s  business, agreed?  If perfection was a job qualification then none of us would be employed, right?  Criminal records MIGHT have a place in assessing qualifications for public office, but bankruptcy, addictions,  and family problems are off limits, correct? What bearing do private affairs have on public matters?

These are the kinds of assertions that have been made by politicians whenever corruption has surfaced on their watch. The validity of such claims is what I wanted a group of homeschoolers to evaluate back in 1999 when I had the privilege to introduce them to the basics of debate.  As I recently reviewed the document, now so many years after the Clinton impeachment hearings, I was struck by how their  affirmative case has rung true.

Since then, many of our New York State politicians have been found guilty of crimes . Civility has declined. 911 rocked our nation bringing with it the emergence of  anarchists and terrorism. 911

National debt has skyrocketed out of control. Fraud was exposed and nearly destroyed our economy and financial institutions in 2008.

foreclosurestock_market_crash_2008The Obama administration has showcased a remarkable tolerance for corruption.10wq4B.AuSt.91Yet, despite all this, many will still ardently argue that private behavior has no bearing on public decision making. The ability of humans to compartmentalize is revered as our culture revels in denial.

no masters                                                       You, Dear Reader, may charge that without a moral consensus the students’ solution is impractical and undo-able. Perhaps.

Where there is no moral consensus there will be a civil war of values. The worse case scenarios may be either a lapse into anarchy or dependence on autocratic rule– much like the extremes found in the Middle East. What then does all this say about the merit of the case these high school students built?  Does character matter?


Observation 1: Resolutional Analysis
Resolved: Resolved that character is relevant in the decision making process of political  leaders.
Definitions: The New Book of Knowledge 1996 states that:
• Character is: moral or ethical strength; integrity, fortitude;
• Decision Making Process is: The act of reaching a conclusion, making up one’s mind.
• The Merriam/Webster dictionary 1989 defines “relevant” as bearing on the matter at hand, political as of or relating to politics, and leader as one who leads.

Observation 2: Significance
The character of a leader affects a whole community, state, or country because his/her decisions affect all aspects of life. Decisions and actions can affect the psychological and physical states of people as seen in Nazi Germany. In issues of war, a decision can be a matter of life or death. The economy and its impact on one’s financial well-being, is not the least of things these leaders can affect. Inherent in the role of a leader is the position of role model. Decisions made can affect the behavior of a country’s citizens.

We have seen as the amount of bad character increased in the White House and Congress, we saw the decline of morality in America. For example, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, in the last 30 years, we have seen babies born to teens increase 300%. Historically, mankind has witnessed that an immoral leader can lead an entire country into ruin, as the example of Rehoboam in Ancient Israel exemplified. Obviously, the consequences of bad decisions are great.

Observation 3: Harms
A great many harms result from a lack of character.

  • One harm arises from emotional decisions. When someone lacks a character base, they will make decisions based on their emotions, which are neither objective, nor necessarily rational.
  • Another harm is that those lacking a moral character base will make decisions in their self-interest instead of the good of those who elected him.
  • Likewise, excess tolerance will cloud one’s ability to identify wrong, and its alternative solutions, as it blurs the line of an absolute standard. This simply stated means right and wrong will be hard to discern if “anything goes”. As each person does what is right in their own eyes, it becomes “each man for himself.”
  • Justice is essential to our peace and security. When lack of character moves us away from absolute standards, our cohesion, unity, sense of morality, and rule of law is threatened.
  • Furthermore, previously mentioned harms lead to a rule of force, because when there is no moral standard, it becomes a rule of the strong over the weak.
  • A lack of character destroys civility, as has been seen over the past few years.
  • Consequently, it destroys an environment that fosters growth, research, and development in all areas.

The long range impacts of a lack of character are now being evidenced very clearly in society today. The following is from William Bennett, the Ex-Secretary of Education:
“Since 1960, the U.S. population has grown 41%, the gross domestic product nearly has tripled, and total levels of social spending by all levels of government (measured in constant 1990 dollars) have risen from $143,730,000,000 to $787,000,000,000–more than a fivefold increase. During the same 34-year period, there has been a more than 500% rise in violent crime; a greater than 400% hike in illegitimate births; a tripling of the percentage of children living in single-parent homes; a threefold increase in teenage suicides; a doubling in the divorce rate; and a drop of almost 75 points in SAT scores. During the last quarter-century, the American people increasingly have abandoned time-honored moral codes. The U.S. now is seeing the results being played out on urban streets and in hospital emergency rooms, the courts, and classrooms”

This clearly states that a national lack of moral character is extremely detrimental to all aspects of modern society. Society is now almost devoid of good role models, and people now look to whoever is popular, powerful, rich, or attractive. This a reflection of the materialistic view of people today.
Leo Collins, a social critic, says the increase in adolescent crime and immorality is linked with the lack of character education in our homes, schools, and churches. To alleviate this tragic situation [moral decay], our families, churches, schools, social organizations, and the business community must reemphasize the teaching, learning, and practice of good morals.

Observation 4: Advantages
Just as there are a great many disadvantages to a lack of moral character, there are many advantages to having moral character.

  • One of the first is the consistency in the results of decisions made by people who include moral character in the process. They will usually make decisions that reflect their beliefs, and make decisions that benefit more people than just themselves. Such a leader will appeal to the highest good.
  • When a leader holds himself accountable for the decisions he makes, it motivates him to research and consider each point of a decision more carefully and thoroughly.
  • Such a leader will produce rules that will allow people to live cooperatively, and not decline into barbarism, where the rule of the strong prevails.
  • When justice, upheld by a moral standard prevails, growth, safety, security, and creativity will increase since people are now safer and can work freely.
  • A moral leader’s private decisions will also equal his public ones; there won’t be a double standard. Likewise, a moral leader is also not open to blackmail, and can make decisions unencumbered by threats.

Observation 4: Plan
We suggest that the best course of action would be that which was suggested by Mr. Leo Collins. Character education should be taught in home, at school, and at work.
The agencies that would choose basic curricular standards are the CEE, Gateways to Better Education, 4th and 5th Rs, and others similar to them. The mandate that we would suggest is to pass a law requiring character education w/ agency oversight of implement, follow up, and distribution of a block grant to those states, schools, and churches that are successful in their programs.

How can we expect our leaders to make decisions of integrity for the nation, when they fail to do so in their own lives? One might argue that it doesn’t matter what activities our leaders engage in, so long as what they do benefits the country. This is terribly shortsighted. The same logic would eliminate the need for a police force. “What does it matter if I break a law? You can’t bind your standards to me.” Sometimes life asks us to make the tough choices, even if they are personally uncomfortable. We do it not because it feels right, but because it is the right thing to do. This nation needs leaders who know the difference.