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Strength of Character

One of the things I love about working with new therapists is their desire to better understand people and what makes some more prone to emotional dysregulation and others more balanced and healthy. A lot of this has to do with adaptability and strength of character. The bottom line is truly that you can't feel something you don't feel, you can't believe something you don't believe, and you can't fake character because someone is always watching, even if the only one watching is you. Character is the foundational truth you stand upon. It can have cracks, chips, and flaws, but ultimately, it is always the measure by which you value yourself and how you consider others will value you.

Scripture is awesome when you can appreciate that the Bible is God's collection of love letters to you. It has stories of men and women who failed and yet God called them, "lovely," the rock," "righteous," and "a man after God's own heart." It's filled with advice as one of God's names is "mighty counselor." It contains wisdom in the books of Psalms and Proverbs where lessons are handed down through the generations. It has teachable moments that include math (the building of the Ark), astrology (heaven and Earth), biology (man and woman), behavior analysis (temptation), and reasoning (how we think). It teaches us that our beliefs are first and foremost what sets the course of our lives, and it tells us we can learn and grow from our mistakes to become saints. The ultimate gift is that it gives us concrete examples of character like integrity, honesty, strong moral fiber, and care and concern for others. It also teaches us to have self-control, humility, and to do the right thing.

It shows us how to avoid things that can harm us, like people with evil intentions who speak lies that deceive us. the Bible tells us to look at the character of someone before you trust them, to use discernment in making choices who to trust, and setting boundaries when trust is broken. A person of good character will have good intentions supported by good behaviors. A person with selfish intentions only thinks how they can benefit from the vulnerability of others and never should be trusted.

When I help clients understand why they are conflicted in relationships with individuals who are displaying poor character traits (lies, affairs, addictions, abuse), I show them 3 measures for establishing trust and setting healthy boundaries:

  1. Trustworthy. A person who is trustworthy is a person you can predict because they are consistently trustworthy. They are people who have never stolen, lied, or abused you. They have words that encourage you, and they are supportive of you. They are trusted confidants who you can turn to for advice and who you can trust to tell you a perspective that would benefit you. They would come help you in the middle of the night, repay all debts, and would never intentionally harm you.. Most people will only have 1 or 2 of these types of life-long friendships.

  2. Limited Trust. This person might be someone you work with, a family member, a new relationship, or a person you haven't seen in a long time. You might tell them limited information while you are measuring up their character. If they spread rumors, borrow without repaying, or you hear them blaming others for their problems, you might want to set some healthy boundaries on how much money you give them, don't loan them your car, and avoid sharing personal information that you don't want the world to know.

  3. Untrustworthy. Avoid this person at all costs. This is a person who has displayed abuse in the past and caused you harm or harmed someone you love. If they do harm once and it is intentional, defended, or they deflect responsibility, they are justifying the abuse and will do it again and again.

When you assess a person's character you are seeing if they are trustworthy or not. This measurement should be applied to all people including your relatives, friendships, employers, and politicians. When words don't match the behaviors you are looking at someone with poor character and someone you shouldn't trust. People who have strength of character are committed, loving, and will stand by their beliefs all the days of their life.


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