Solomon, a wise king who lived thousands of years ago, said, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1).
A good name cannot be bought, stolen, or even inherited. It can only be earned by character.
In Tim Elmore’s Habitudes, I read about a multimillionaire who asked a builder to construct a house. He showed him the blueprints and then gave him a huge amount of money. The millionaire said to the builder, “You probably won’t need all this money, but I want you to have plenty to build a solid house. When you are finished, you can keep whatever money you have left over.”
The builder smiled. He thought to himself, I can build a house for a fraction of this money. Then, I can pocket most of the money for myself! So he began to throw the house together with haste. He placed studs five feet apart; he pounded only one nail per board; he slapped on a thin coat of paint. He threw on the shingles and barely covered the roof of the house.
When he was finished, he knew the house wasn’t solid, but at least it looked good and he had lots of money left over. He went back to the multimillionaire and said, “Here is the key to the house.” The millionaire smiled and said, “Oh, I forget to tell you…the house is yours.”
Each of us is constructing our lives by the choices we make. We build good character brick by brick, thought by thought, action by action, habit by habit, through daily exercising of courage and determination. The decisions we make affect others, but they also shape the place where we must live alongside each other.
Character is both a public and private matter. It is both a government issue and an economic issue. Virtue impacts our faith and touches our families. It is an individual matter and also vital for the whole. We must display character daily from our homes to our communities, to our cities, to our states, to the nation. We must instill in our children, our leaders, and our institutions the indispensable quality of character.
And that brings us to, well, you.
What are you doing to stoke the spark of character within yourself? How are you training your children to grow from boys and girls to men and women of character? Do you display character from the living room to the boardroom, on social media and at the dinner table?
Character must be indispensably woven into the fabric of our lives, but this does not happen by accident. We must work hard to cultivate it.
When we shortcut character, we shortcut ourselves. Eventually, what is on the inside of your house will show up on the outside.
May we never forget a truth that too many of our fellow citizens have forgotten: Character still counts. It always has, and it always will.