In case you're wondering who this Gary Ryan Blair character — whom I keep quoting — is, he's the creator of the 100 Day Challenge that I've been following and blogging about. One of the things I like most about his program, is that it poses a return to common sense and real values. He's not politically correct nor does he spout endless psycho-babble. Rather, he reiterates the principles and ideas that we instinctively know are true, and yet often ignore or have clouded by popular convention.
In this lesson, he said something almost every decent parent thought:
Many things have changed in my life as I've become a parent. I've come to the full understanding that detachment and value neutrality is not the road to good parenting.
As I've discussed before, pretending to have no values — perhaps under the guise of “letting children choose for themselves” or refusing to “indoctrinate” your children— is bogus. First, either you have values you are concealing (and lying about) or you're denying that lack of values is, in fact, a value set. And it's a value set that serves no one.
The simple truth is, character does matter. As Heraclitus said:
Character is destiny.
In spite of all the hemming and hawing and posturing about public life versus private life that we hear in defense of politicians, celebrities, and the like — when trying to defend our support of someone who lacks moral discipline and integrity — the bottom line is that you can't separate the two. People are not abstracts apart from their behavior. In fact, as Aristotle said:
We are what we repeatedly do.
This concise statement underlies the stupidity of such pop psychology advices such as, “Don't tell him he's a ‘bad boy.' Tell him he's a ‘good boy who did a bad thing.'”
If doing bad doesn't make you bad and, conversely, doing good doesn't make you good, the terms have no meaning at all. And wether or not someone has good or bad character matters.
We should also care for the character of others. If we know a person's character, we can better predict how he or she is likely to respond to temptation, adversity, and success. It helps us to make better judgments when we know the character of the people we date and marry, who we do business with, and elect as our political leaders.
Bill Clinton isn't a virtuous man who committed serial adultery, covered it up, publicly denied it, and let the women take the fall. He is an adulterer, liar, creep, and terrible husband. And, frankly, if his wife can't trust him (and she can't), I don't trust him either.
And, of course, he's not the only public example of someone with no moral fiber. We can add John McCain, John Edwards, Newt Gingrich, and John Edwards without a blink. They aren't honorable men who did dishonorable things. They are dishonorable men. And to the extent we do bad things, we are bad people.
But the great thing about being a bad person, is that you can become a good person, by ceasing to do bad things and starting to do good things. The not so great thing is that transforming our character is hard.
It is not easy to change our ways, as our habits of heart and mind are well entrenched. They're deeply rooted in durable dispositions and beliefs. Yet just as a mountain is constantly being reshaped by weather, our character can be reformed by our choices.
Choices. Good choices lead to good character. It's as simple (and as challenging) as that. Minute by minute, day by day, year by year, we become what we we repeatedly do. If what we repeatedly do is good, so are we.
The power to control our actions is the power to control our character. And the power to control our character is the power to control our lives.
It's a remarkable thing that we aren't doomed to live on instinct or to play the had we are dealt at birth. Neither our genes nor our tendencies determine the choices we make. We can become the person we choose to become by controlling our actions, one day at a time.
Join me in the 100 Day Challenge!