P. Doug Wilson in his Forward for The Trinity Forum Reading, The Oracle of the Dog by G.K. Chersterton: “The pursuit of character is hard work, particularly if you, like me, have developed an increasing immunity to one of the key tools for character development, learning from experience.”
We could probably stop there, but why. What are some character developing experiences in your own life?
I can sure think of a few in my own. When I was young, many of my lessons occurred on a tennis court usually about the time I was ready to throw in the towel on a match that might not have been going my way. Well, “quit” was not a part of our vocabulary. I’ll never forget one match where I had actually excused myself at one point to get sick. When I started to pack up my things after getting back on the court and feeling ill again, my dad stopped me. “What are you doing?” he asked. “Well, I feel horrible. I’m defaulting … she can win… she’s going to anyway.” My opponent happened to be a nemesis. I never liked playing her. The truth was, I could finish the match. I did feel horrible; but I didn’t want to lose to her – legitimately lose. I wanted to default and keep my “winning” record. My dad’s response? “You’re a Wills. And Wills don’t quit. Get back on that court!” At his unwavering (and what I thought was insensitive) insistence, I drug myself back out to that hot, West Texas court and lost my match. But I played every point… and I’ve never forgotten it. My dad grounded me. He told me who I was. He made me push through the pain and the desire to throw in the towel. He taught me how to lose with dignity and integrity.
Fast forward a several years to a time standing on a tar mac in Cleveland, Ohio. In my capacity as a Lead Advance in the Bush ’41 White House, I had led my Principal through the day’s events. Only during one portion, I committed a major faux pas. Rather than stick to our schedule and gracefully decline an opportunity to tour one more facility, I put my boss into an awkward position of having to respond to our host’s kind offer. Of course she couldn’t decline the charity’s CEO. So, off we went to another tour. I knew I had blown it the instant I did it. It wasn’t some earth-shattering mistake. In fact, some would have dubbed it a blip. But it didn’t matter. My well-intentioned mis-step delayed our schedule and ripple affected the rest of our day. This prompted my Principal to dish me the chewing out of my life-time in front of our staff, the Secret Service guys and the local big-wigs bidding us good-bye as we gathered things to board the plane ride home. Awkward. Humiliation is an understatement. “Public” an apt description. … Yet, because I had been trained well, I took the berating and owned the error. I got on the plane and held my head sort of high. What else could I say, but “I’m sorry. You’re right. I’ll try to do better next time.” What would feeling sorry for myself, or indignant or angry have served. Not much … But owning the issue, avoiding excuses and not quitting catapulted me to a trusted position and ushered in a lasting relationship that I will treasure always. Why? Because “a Wills doesn’t quit.”
Moral of the story … character comes through experience. Not from being saved. Not from someone living it for you. It comes from doing. From succeeding. From falling and getting back up.
Here’s to developing our kids’ character. You never know how they might change the world when powered by genuine tenacity and a few KIDCANDOOs … because they can. (Keep the pics and stories coming :)
Restaurant worthy dinner, from recipe to preparation on her own.
Dessert for a party from scratch… a tween who hopes to own a bakery some day.
check out “Let Them Climb Trees (and Fall)” – our moatblog front and center in the New York Times. Thanks K.J. Dell’Antoinia for inviting me and for posting!! Be sure to comment, FB Share or email to friends while you’re at the NYT site. It will keep our topic front and center.
Thanks for walking the road with me.