Examining Epictetus #33: Trials, Character Development, and the Way

Trials

It doesn’t matter what it is. When I see my son struggle in any endeavor, I feel bad for him. I wish he didn’t have to go through the ordeal. I wish it was easier for him.

Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom.

Jim Rohn

This wish for him is a very tiny wish, and it only lasts for a few seconds. Reality quickly sets in, and my moment of weakness is gone. As a father, it is not my job to remove his obstacles. Instead, it is my job to make sure he goes through them and to help him navigate them to the best of his abilities. I hate it when he loses, but the losing is necessary. Better to lose now and learn from the experience than to learn it hard way later in life. It is preferable to lose a game or fail a test now than to do so when the stakes are higher. Learning the lessons from his trials puts him on a path to winning (consistently) in the future.

The trials we go through expose our weaknesses. They show us where we need to improve. They create the path to strengths we never knew possible.

Character Development

One of the greatest joys in life is accomplishing a difficult goal. Thoreau said, “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals .” Our destination is important. Even more important is who we become along the way. This journey is critical to the development of our character.

This is the ultimate game. It is one that is dear to our hearts. Cheating or cutting corners in our personal endeavors diminishes our returns. Short-sighted and shallow goals will do us no good. We cannot play small in a game void of consequences. Doing so provides no benefits.

We must be willing to play big if we want the lucrative rewards that comes from both the process and accomplishment.

The Way

How do we go big and win? We put it all on the line. Look at the winners around us. Championship teams don’t hoist the trophy by luck. Gold medalists  don’t get to the podium by happenstance. They make their goals, and then they fully immerse themselves in the quest. They make it their top priority.

This is the way. We must make it the most important thing in our lives. We can either make our journey into a reality, or we can keep it as a wish.

Give yourself fully to your endeavors. Decide to construct your character through excellent actions and determine to pay the price of a worthy goal. The trials you encounter will introduce you to your strengths.

Epictetus

Give 100%. Develop your character like it is your birth right. Find your strengths.

Guardian Angel

A guardian angel:

  • Keeps you safe.
  • Works on your behalf.
  • Guides you.
  • Helps you through the hard times.

Your relationship to a guardian angel:

  • Show love and respect.
  • Trust in the protection.

Most likely, all of us at one point has been told we have a guardian angel. This protector keeps us from going down the wrong path. They watch over us in our sleep and ensures no evil befalls us.

Angel sent by God to guide me,

Be my light and walk beside me;

Be my guardian and protect me;

On the paths of life direct me.

catholicgallery.org

For a moment, consider your character. It:

  • Keeps you safe.
  • Works on your behalf.
  • Guides you.
  • Helps you through the hard times.

Your character is your protection against would-be enemies. If you love and respect it, if you nurture it, it will be an impenetrable bastion. But if you stain it, you will open the floodgates and be assailed from all directions. Such is the power of your character. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “A man’s character is his guardian divinity.”

Like a guardian angel, it will guide you, be your light and guide you; let it be your guardian and protect you; and on the paths of life direct you.


Feature photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash

When Nobody’s Looking

1984. Big Brother is always watching. Back in 1949 when George Orwell wrote this, it was really science fiction. Now this fiction has become reality. Can you go anywhere without being seen, noticed, or recorded? Between your phone, the satellites, and anybody else looking to make a viral video, there is a chance you are always in the spotlight.

One would hope that with this knowledge, humanity would improve, that it would live more virtuous. But it doesn’t; we don’t. We don’t look at it as an accountability tool to coerce us into doing the right thing. We look at it as a burden.

Living the virtuous life isn’t a public show for the masses. It isn’t a yoke holding us back from freedom. It is something we practice to make our lives and the lives of those around us better. It is striving to do good all the time, whether in the public eye or in your private life.

Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. –J.C. Watts, Jr.

Building our character is done internally. The fruits of our work is manifested in our actions, whether for good or for evil. The cover of darkness doesn’t hide the person we are on the inside. If anything, it only shines a greater light on who we truly are.

Attitude Adjustment, Character Correction

Justice 10/23/2019

I was asked for help on a project, and I didn’t have a good attitude about it. I had something else I wanted to do and didn’t want to burn daylight assisting in another area.

It is easy to correct my son when he gets a poor attitude. It is easy to call anybody else out on this when I see it. But if somebody would have called me out here, I would have denied it and been wrong for it. In truth, my attitude needed an adjustment.

Continuing on in this manner, I doubt the person would ask for my help in the future. That would hurt, because I want to be called on when needed. But what I was doing was not helping my credibility. Would I want someone else’s help who would only give it grudgingly? Not a chance.

Having a poor attitude is direct reflection on my character. I believe I have a strong work ethic, but nobody is going to want that kind of negative baggage even with positive results. I know I wouldn’t. I would rather just do it myself.

So today, I am going to reflect on my attitude and how it impacts my character. If I am serious about being a positive role model for not only my son but for those I come into contact with, I am going to monitor this in the future and make the necessary adjustments.

Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character. –Albert Einstein