Friday, October 14, 2011

The Content Of Your Character

'The content of your character'....I saw this sign on the wall of an elementary school yesterday, and it got me thinking about character.

I was brought up never to lie, cheat, steal, or be pretentious. My father was a proud bricklayer who with his brother built and sold a grand total of thirty nine houses before he stopped working. I remember when a woman he had sold a house to two years before called and told him her stove wasn't working. I could hear my father grumble about his integrity. "I won't have her thinking I installed a bad stove. I'll replace it if I can't fix it." End of story. He did not have to. He bought her a new stove.

That night at dinner my father reminded me that 'a person's good name can be lost in a reckless minute. All you have is your good name,' he told me. "Always protect it."

Sometimes I think my standards are too high and sometimes I think I fold when I should stand my ground. I'm not always sure. I know of an instance when I've leaned toward forgiveness when people who love me tell me I'm nuts. But I can't help it. If I love someone I don't do very well unloving. I end up just not understanding and my heart suffers. This is part of my character. I'm not a wimp, and just watch me reclassify someone who treats me or someone else badly, but I carry a loyalty that makes it hard to say goodbye, even when I should know better. I take pride in teaching my clients about 'positive terminations' and I know full well how important it is to end a relationship well if the relationship has to end, but the truth is I don't like the ending part much at all. I think most people do it with alot more grace and acceptance than I am able to muster.

So as I'm thinking about issues of character--my own in particular--my scientist brother sends me some examples, from author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia:

1. A four-year-old child, whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife: Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's' yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy just said, 'Nothing, I just helped him cry.'

2. "On my way home one day, I stopped watch a Little League base ball game that was being played in a park near my home. As I sat down behind the bench on the first base line, I asked one of the boys what the score was. 'We're behind 14 to nothing,' he answered with a smile. 'Really,' I said. 'I have to say you don't look very discouraged.''Discouraged?', the boy asked with a puzzled look on his face. 'Why should we be discouraged? We haven't been up to bat yet."

3. Jamie was trying out for a part in the school play. His mother knew that he'd set his heart on being in it, though she feared he would not be chosen. On the day the parts were awarded she collected him after school and he rushed up to her, eyes shining with pride and excitement..'Guess what, Mom,' he shouted, 'I've been chosen to clap and cheer!'

You don't need me to spell out the lessons here. Most likely you already know them well. But a reminder never hurts. ♥

Love kj


  1. My dearest Twinkly Twin, this is another gem of a post, filled with the gentle wisdom that is as beautiful as your big loving heart. You have managed to bring a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat again, in the very best of ways.

  2. Love this post, KJ! And I love how very big your heart is! Don't unlove - ever!! Your stories reminded me of this commercial: I want to live my life like that little boy!! :) Love, Silke

  3. Beautiful post, k.j.
    Thank you for sharing this goodness!
    With LOTS of love to my lovin' friend...


  4. 'god love it' my mother would always say. that story about jamie just breaks my are so transparent with their emotions - trying so hard to be good - to be positive about life. chosen to clap and just breaks my heart, it really does.

    i love leo buscaglia - had his books. went to one of his lectures once and waited in line for hours for one of his famous hugs he gave everyone in the audience. really.

    kj - your dad sounds like the real thing. we need more like him in this world, that's for sure. i love the way you articulate your struggle - it resonates deeply with me. i find myself asking the same questions - and i'm not sure answers are really there to be found in the end. maybe it all comes down to doing the best we can in any given day, any given situation, any given moment and surrendering the rest to this wonderfully rich human journey.

  5. Having had a relationship end without a real ending this summer, I have had this idea on my mind a lot. I don't know who said it or the exact quote, but I read somewhere once something like "A relationship that does not end well does not end." While I also prefer not to end at all in most cases, I find the refusal to end well a pure torment.

  6. Wise words....sometimes easier to say than to do....but it's the *trying* that counts.


    ♥ Robin ♥

  7. Your dad sounds a lot like mine was---your good name was everything; how you treated people, standing behind what you said you would do.
    I hope it is not a lot era. I hope for that integrity to be found in young folk today too.
    Loved the little boy who *just helped him cry* are so very aware.


  8. "If I love someone I don't do very well unloving. I end up just not understanding and my heart suffers."

    Oh how I love this! Please cross stitch me a pillow! I noticed how all your examples were little boys. Lucky for me, I had two.

    I cannot unlove, although at times I think God himself asks me to. At least to unlove in degrees, which I find as equally difficult as the entire task. Actually ridiculous. Which reigns. Heart or will? I am not sure I will ever know the answer, and so I suppose ,my character remains in question.

  9. oh gee whiz mim, love your tiny hi :)

    you are your dad's girl kj, and he is proud. i'm sure of it. thank you for the message. xxx

  10. dearest twinkly twin, what a lovely comment. thank you! we walk the same path xo

    silke, that commercial is precious! i will send that to my jessica and son-in-law. and just so you know, YOU ARE AWESOME!!

    thank you back, lovin' friend ♥

    amanda, but don't let jamie break your heart because he is proud of his role. take a peek at silke's video: i think we aim too high when we can instead be happy with what is. yes? as for my struggle, it is hard for me to continue to write about it but i loved and my heart truly broke and got kicked and battered in the process. that much is true. the rest i don't know what to think yet.....xo

    cs, i love your comment. i'm with you completely. xo

    robin, the doing is hard. no doubt.

    anne, i don't know about future generations either but i do know i will do my best to teach and educate the people i love and the world around me. ♥

  11. ww, i don't think your character is in question at all but i agree with every word you've said. what reigns? damned if i know. i'm wanting to believe that hearts can bounce instead of break! but i do know doing the right thing matters colossally. xo

    hi there honey :^)

    lori, which message is that? :^) thank you for everything sf.

  12. Hello! I stumbled over from blogging incognito. Those are very good reminders. Great post! Thank you.

  13. i admire the way you are always willing to look inside yourself and acknowledge who you are and how you think and see the world. lovely stories. hugs, suki

  14. Though the examples are correct and well stated the problem is translating them to an adult mind that has been poked and pierced by so many things in ife.

    I personally think you nailed it in the first couple of lines "I was brought up never to lie, cheat, steal, or be pretentious."

  15. I have a difficult time letting go of people also. I see it as a fault but perhaps it's not, perhaps it's hope.

    #1, the little boy who helped the old man cry, they made me cry. I'm so thankful for young children in the world. They know things we have forgotten long ago.

  16. Lovely stories(the first story made me smile wide), lovely post. I too hang on to people long after I should, but I am learning that I have to care for myself first, this goes against what we are taught, but I have learned it the hard way, having said that I think forgiving and loving are always right, however that does not mean you have to suffer and keep the person in your life. Hugs. xoxo

  17. I haven't visited in a while, but as always, when I do, I come away smiling and filled with 'food for thought'

  18. kj - when i said jamie's comment broke my heart - i didn't mean because he didn't get a role in the play - but because of the innocence and incredible wisdom of a child who can really SEE the beauty and happiness in being chosen to clap and cheer ~ if only we adults could be so happy no matter what - the world would be a lot different place....

    i'm forever saying 'that breaks my heart' when i see or hear something particularly endearing... must be an old phrase inherited from my dear mother ;-)

  19. Wonderful to read - you do have that knack my friend!

  20. Unfortunately there are too many young people in the world today who have not learnt any valuable lessons and this makes me so sad....we can keep hoping for the future I guess.

  21. Brilliant!! Lol this post is amazing! It really got me thinking, I liked the depth of your prose too. Your dad sounds like an amazing person, you're so blessed to have him

  22. Wonderful post PP!

    Like father, like daughter ;)
    I would have loved your dad.

    I never thought of 'unloving" before. For me, it just eventually falls away like the skin of an onion. Some linger longer than others.

    I adored Leo. He was one of the first of his kind whose books I devoured. By his kind I mean the gentle self-help guys.

    yep. I love this post. I'm sure I'll come back to read it a few more times.


  23. Oh honey, I love this. The wisdom of a child is NOT to be questioned.

    You are so tender-hearted and alive.

    Love from Westward ho...


  24. Oh kj . . .we're of the same ilk I think. I should just walk away right now but can't. I'm folding finally. Damn heart.

  25. Splendid post, KJ. Wonderful father you had. I like people who are proud and honest and have a warm heart. No humbug, no false pretentions. They are simply the best.