November 23, 2015

Thankfulness: A Key Ingredient to Character

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It’s Thanksgiving time. Queue the list of things we’re grateful for. Sure, this list is important, but I want to take it a step further. By practicing gratitude every day, we can build this attitude into our every day character. This excerpt from The Gospel Goes to Work discusses the relationship between thankfulness and character.


The word for “character” in the New Testament comes from a Greek term describing an engraving instrument. The picture is of an artist who wears a groove on a metal plate by repeatedly etching the same place with a sharp tool. After repeated strokes, an image begins to take shape.

My character is forged as a set of distinctive marks that, together, illustrate a portrait of who I really am. Everyone has character. But the quality of character can be described: bad or good, shifty or sturdy, sordid or sterling.
Behavior and character are related, but they are not the same thing. Behavior is what I do. Character is the person my behavior has built. Behavior is just one action—“I behaved badly in that situation.” Character is the sum of my behaviors, public and private, arranged consistently across the spectrum of my life. Any behavior, duplicated and reduplicated, forms a part of my character.

Every time we make a decision, we cut a groove. Every time we react to a crisis, we cut a groove. When we hold our tongues and practice self-control, or when we let them run loose and speak our minds, we are carving our character. When we say yes or no to a reckless temptation, we are signing our names. When you stand up to peer pressure, hold the line on truth, or return kindness for cruelty, you are cutting the pattern of your character.

There’s no overnight delivery on character. You build it up gradually over time. Then it comes into play when it’s needed. My character becomes the connective thread of my “eulogy virtues regardless what my résumé virtues” are, as David Brooks says in his thoughtful book The Road to Character.

The boss who has developed a habit of caring for people will treat his employees as human beings who have feelings, not as tools to accomplish his will.

The marketing director who values honesty will practice truth in advertising and not over-hype her company’s offerings.

The team lead that is striving for humility will resist the temptation to take credit for an idea someone else put forth first.

If we’re developing godly character, we’ll make sure our résumé tells the strict truth. We’ll under-promise and over- deliver, instead of the other way around. We won’t overstate earnings to make investors happy. We won’t instruct customer service to cover up mistakes in order to hold on to clients.
We won’t call in sick when the truth is that we just don’t feel like working that day. We’ll handle our company’s money and physical assets with scrupulous integrity.

No amount of business ethics training has been able to establish consistent integrity in the workplace. But habits engraved over time because of a faith motivation can turn the way we do business into a slight reflection of the flawless character of God.

In light of Thanksgiving, I encourage you to consider buying this book for others. Thanksgiving is a time to focus on the needs of others. Who in your life needs more of the gospel in the workplace? You can order The Gospel Goes to Work here.

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