Character, Part 2 - page 3

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From the Winter 2006 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Character, Part 2

by Arthur W. Lindsley, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, C.S. Lewis Institute

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Sow a Thought, Reap an Act

  Deciding what goes into our minds is the beginning of dealing with character. The Bible has a lot to say about the importance of our thoughts. Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 to “be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” A first step in our transformation involves rejecting those thoughts from the cultural environment around us that are opposed to Christ and, rather than being conformed to that pattern of thinking, to pursue the renewing of our minds. In Ephesians 2:3, Paul indicates that prior to coming to Christ, we can be enslaved, “indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” Not only the flesh, but the mind is in captivity. In Matthew 12:34, Jesus says that “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil. And I say to you that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the Day of Judgment.” So good thoughts in the heart issue good words, and evil words flow out of evil in the heart. The treasure of good thoughts filling the heart spills over into good words and good actions. Matthew 15 says, ‘’It is that which comes out of the heart that defiles.”
  Another classic verse, Philippians 4:8, contains Paul’s charge: “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” Thus, we need to guard our hearts and minds because out of these come our words and actions. There are many more such passages.

Sow an Act, Reap a Habit

  When we do act rightly and continue in that pattern, virtues are formed. We can look at certain people and know that they are reliable. On the other hand, when we act wrongly and continue in that pattern, it becomes a vice. Bad habits can easily be stopped in their beginnings. However, the more they are practiced, the stronger they become. In the beginning, bad habits are like cobwebs, sticky and unpleasant, but easily broken. However, if not resisted, bad habits become chains that bind us. The word used commonly in the culture is the word “addiction.” (Usually it has a negative sense. But William Glasser argued in his book, Positive Addiction, that some practices, though habit forming, can be good—maybe just another word for virtues.)
  We see rehabilitation centers for addiction to alcohol and drugs. We also hear of sexual addiction. Often addiction begins by providing great initial pleasure, but there is always a law of diminishing returns. A psychiatrist friend, Dr. David Allen, was one of the first to work on treatment of crack cocaine addicts. He said that crack cocaine is the one drug that must never be tried, because it is almost 100% addictive. This is because it delivers on the first try the highest high you could imagine. Addicts have described it as like having a thousand orgasms or having Christmas every day. But because of the depletion of a chemical in the brain, you never get the same high again. The second high is always less than the first, and the third less high than the second and so on. Addicts have said that they could see the first high from the second, but not get there. After a while, the addict gets very little positive pleasure from the cocaine but has to treat the cocaine depression—the withdrawal that happens if they do not continue.
  In many ways, this phenomenon—the law of diminishing returns—is a parable about what happens with all sinful habits. Initially, the act is filled with pleasure, but not too far down the road comes the tyranny of the addiction and increasing loss of pleasure. That initial pleasure is like a hook that then draws you in. It is better to stop the habit in the beginning or as with crack cocaine, not begin at all.

Sow a Character, Reap a Destiny

  Often character flaws profoundly affect a person’s destiny. A wrong word or phrase has destroyed the careers of radio and television announcers. Politicians have let go a slip of the tongue and lost power and position because of it. I once heard a proverb: A slip of the tongue leads to a slip of the mind, which leads to a slip of the soul. Something slips out of the tongue and because of pride has to be rationalized and justified (slip of the mind). But that very denial of our original mistake leads to a “slip of the soul.”


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