Oh my! Do you notice what is going on around the world and especially in the United States?
- People are routinely being gunned down in churches, synagogues, theaters, entertainment events, schools, companies, governments, and homes.
- Parents are attempting to bribe universities in order to gain admission for their children.
- Highly respected manufacturers are being accused of significant crimes and misdemeanors while they betray their markets, deny everything, and attempt to defend themselves.
- Politicians seem to be more interested in keeping their jobs, rather than actually doing their jobs.
- Lots of people are routinely ignoring or rejecting facts about certain subjects, and instead spewing their vitriol reflecting their rabid criticisms about the same subjects. They are unable or unwilling to create civil debates and discussions with those who hold different views.
- There appears to be some who think they are entitled to everything without taking responsibility for their lives. Somehow they think, “I exist, therefore I am entitled. What have you done for me lately?” Gimme, gimme appears to be the chorus many are continually singing.
- It is becoming more self-evident that many think it is preferable to become a professional victim… whining about their situation. Blaming everyone else is now very fashionable.
- Lying, cheating, blaming, whining, belly-aching, criticizing, condemning, and avoiding responsibility have become fashionable habits of a large population of citizens.
- Caring, compassion, generosity of spirit, taking responsibility, and integrity all seem to continue sliding downhill and evaporating.
What has happened to our character, standards, adult behavior, self-respect, pride, and strong principles? It’s time we rebuild, restore, strengthen, and promote our Strength of Character!
THE DETERIORATION OF AMERICAN SOCIETY STANDARDS
- Manners. When out for dinner, it’s common to see those at the table more content being glued to their cell phone rather than enjoying the meal and talking with family or friends.
- Anger. More drivers are committing “Road Rage” because they think that another driver disrespected them or cut them off.
- Respect. More and more, children and young adults are failing to show deference towards their elders and people in authority like teachers, police, parents, military, etc.
- Clothing. Many seem to think that it is acceptable to go out to an elegant restaurant wearing ripped jeans, t-shirt, and perhaps a baseball-style cap backwards rather than dressing as if it were a special occasion. Moreover, many young men believe that the rest of us find it attractive to look at their underwear while their pants are pulled down to their thighs!
- Communication. The formal written letters, thank you notes, and phone calls have gone by the wayside in favor of 280-character tweets or one word responses via text. Rarely does anyone have a personal one-on-one conversation.
Think about your life and how you are living it. For most of us, our lives are filled with some great ups, some painful downs, and a whole boatload of underwhelming vanilla in the middle. We frequently waste a lot of time either watching life go by or simply stalling with great intentions to get going real soon.
Occasionally we learn some lessons and gain some wisdom that happens when our experience collides with reflection on that experience. Most of the time we experience that collision only when the situation is painful enough. When we reflect on our experience, we often learn lessons. Those lessons are invaluable to help us make course corrections in our life journey. Too often we fail to reflect on our experiences and it costs us the valuable lessons we may have learned. And, as you may know, life is about learning lessons, and lessons will be repeated until they are learned!
Just think about the history of humankind. Does it seem blatantly obvious that we keep repeating the same mistakes over the many centuries? It certainly seems we rarely learn any valuable lessons and apply them to ourselves.
Life is short, and too often we say along the way, “If I knew then what I know now!” We say this with regret because we stalled for too long to learn the lessons.
So, in your saner reflective moments, you might notice that your character plays a huge role in the quality of your life!
YOUR STRENGTH OF CHARACTER
Your character is made up of:
- Your basic governing standards
- Your values and principles
- Your standards of conduct
- Your rules of engagement
- Your priorities in life
- Your self-respect
- Your rules for your ongoing behavior
Every morning when you wake up and look at yourself in the mirror, what do you see?
- Are you pleased or embarrassed?
- Proud or ashamed?
- Impressed or depressed?
- Excited or bored?
- Energetic or listless?
- Engaged or isolated?
- Powerful or weak?
- Insecure or confident?
- Anxious or calm?
How much has your life become meaningful or meaningless?
How much are you passing your life with time? Might you perhaps prefer to pass your time with life?
Remember, every morning, whether you like it or not, you wake up inside your own skin. Consider that “WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE, SO THERE YOU GO!” This means you have to live with yourself, your feelings, your choices, your habits, and your behavior. Just like compounded interest in a bank account, there are long-term rewards or penalties to those choices and behaviors.
At the end of the day, the measure of your life is inevitably determined by your CHARACTER and all its strengths and weaknesses. Over the last many years, I have lost count of all the clients with whom I have worked, where inevitably, we start discussing their CHARACTER, and their need to improve it.
Think about how often you have stayed up at night worrying and obsessing about:
- A bad decision you made which led to getting you in trouble with family, friends, or the law
- Lying to others in an effort to impress them
- Participating in an activity where you know it’s wrong, yet, you want to fit in
- Continuing to drive while intoxicated and/or under the influence
- Borrowing money from friends or family, knowing you won’t pay them back
- Failing to keep promises
- Using others for money, status, shelter, vacations, support, security, etc.
- Feeling sorry for yourself, playing victim, and avoiding responsibility
- Criticizing others for their habits that remind you of you
- Continually failing to save money and whining about your lack of it
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER!
Ask yourself any of these questions:
What is the condition of your character?
What are your basic governing values?
What are the moral principles by which you want to live?
What is the gap between what you espouse and what you practice? There is always going to be a gap, just how wide is it? Is that ok with you?
What exactly are the ingredients of your character?
What are the foundations of strong character?
Here are the 3 essential and foundational qualities for Strength of Character:
- INTEGRITY. Integrity is honesty, legitimacy, the straight stuff, the full disclosure, and the willingness to be unpopular at times by telling the truth. It’s the absence of lying, tap-dancing, pretending, spinning, stalling, distracting, rationalizing, justifying, and avoiding. It’s doing the right thing — and most of the time we know what that is. Curiously, though most of us generally can conclude what the right thing is to do, it is bewildering how often people choose to do something else. So many people replace lying by calling it “Alternative Facts.” The good news about continually practicing integrity is that it allows you to be free of remembering your lies!
- RESPONSIBILITY. Remember,your life is completely your responsibility. As an adult, you own your situation. You are responsible for your choices, decisions, preferences, relationships, emotions, financial health, conduct, and actions. If life is going well for you, you probably made that happen. If life is going poorly, you did that too. And, if life is a giant boatload of underwhelming and wasting time, you did that too! The cards dealt to you are yours to play with; good or bad. So, take accountability, make your choices, apologize, clean up your mess, take your lumps, pay the freight, and get on with it. The energy you spend on whining, complaining, awfulizing, and problem describing will be so much better spent on routine problem solving.
- GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT. This part of your Strength of Character is all about:
- giving more than taking
- contributing more than consuming
- caring more than expecting
- forgiving more than condemning
- reinforcing more than criticizing
- resolving more than fighting
- investing more than expensing
- letting it go more than belaboring
- being flexible more than rigid
- understanding more than belittling
- asking more than telling
- being more proactive than reactive
This part of you is where you are comfortable inside your own skin because you can find your calm, live in the light, find your smile, derive meaning, and hear the quiet. “You get more than you give when you give more than you get.” (Hmm, going the extra mile; random acts of kindness!)
How do you develop and improve your Strength of Character?
Ask yourself these questions
1.Which has a longer shelf-life, being popular or being respected?
When you think about it, being popular is similar to fashion; one minute it is IN and the next minute it is OUT. Being popular means that you are hostage to the whims of the masses, and often the masses can be fickle. There is frequently great group pressure to belong to the Union of Fitting In. You may notice that people who are popular rarely have a strong opinion on anything, and they are careful to avoid being controversial or strong-willed. They want to fit in, be nice, court favor, and avoid conflict; therefore, popular people are easy to like.
Your being hostage to the approval/disapproval of others perpetually makes you adjust your standards and conduct in the interest of gaining that temporary favor from them.
Moreover, you will notice that people who are highly respected tend to be respected for a long time. They are willing to be unpopular in the interest of a higher standard. Often, they are people to whom you look up to because they frequently choose a higher principle and are willing to stick with it. Principles, values, and standards are important to people who are respected. They often emerge as thought leaders and role models. They also think that fitting in to the trend of the day is unthinkable and that anyone who is concerned about being popular is out of step with what is important. Instead they are committed to strength of character and want to operate from integrity, responsibility, and generosity of spirit.
So, being respected has a longer shelf life.
2. Which is more likely? If you are liked and popular you will be more respected… or if you are respected you will be more liked and popular?
Certainly, it is true that either one lacks a guarantee. Think about the people you think are popular and liked. It is easy to like them because they are easy to be around… fun, funny, charming, affable, polite, mannerly, flexible, accommodating, deferential, amiable, empathetic, and caring. All are good qualities. On the other hand, do you necessarily respect them?
If you respect someone, you admire their values, convictions, discipline, standards, and willingness to live by strong principles. Over time, you might notice that you are gradually drawn to them and actually might begin to like them even if you disagree with some or all of their convictions.
So, if you are respected, you are more likely to be liked.
3. If you operate largely from self-respect, are you more likely to be respected?
The degree to which you get respect from others is in direct proportion to your own self-respect. The more self-respect you have, the more respect you will get from others.
For example, you get pressure from your peers to participate in taking drugs because it is cool, everyone is doing it, and you want to avoid being called a wimp. So, to get group approval, you consent, do the drugs and then later regret it for a variety of reasons. Sometimes you have to do the “right” thing because your self-respect is at stake. When you do, you respect what you see in the mirror and “they” will likely respect you more.
Overall it appears that self-respect and being respected is overwhelmingly the preferred choice.
So how do you ensure that you operate from a position of self-respect?
YOUR “SELF-RESPECT BAROMETER©“
Going forward, consider using the “SELF-RESPECT BAROMETER©.”
You know what a barometer measures — air pressure. And, as you may know, boaters and airplane pilots always check the barometer before they venture out into the sea or sky. If the barometer indicates a storm coming, it may be a bad idea to go out in bad weather. Barometers give you a reliable prediction of what is coming.
Suppose you are going to make a decision about a relationship, an initiative, a purchase, a reaction, etc. and this decision has some emotion attached to it which means that this next decision might be impacted by that emotion.
Consider this; you probably wear a watch, and you probably look at your watch routinely to check the time (or you might look at your mobile phone for the same purpose). Regularly checking the time helps you make important decisions at particular points in the day.
Now imagine that you have an additional gauge on your watch (or phone) and this one is called your “SELF-RESPECT BAROMETER©,” and it continually measures your self-respect at any time you want to check it.
Take a look at the following examples around which you have two options. Consider which choice is likely to increase your self-respect.
- Run away from the mess you’ve created and hope the conflict resolves itself
- Clean up the mess you made and resolve the conflict
- Buy the item because you must have it now even though you lack the money
- Routinely set aside money so you can build up your monetary supply
- Betray a relationship with “little white lies”
- Stay loyal, honest, and face the music
- Criticize and blame others because it is always “their fault”
- Own your behavior, pay the freight, and take responsibility for your contribution
- Be defensive and argumentative because you must win and/or avoid losing
- Step up and work on reaching agreement and compromise
- Stay in a toxic relationship, practice self-pity, and stay miserable
- Offload the relationship, learn your lessons, and move into your next chapter
- Stay in a job you hate because you are afraid to be in charge of your life
- Take responsibility for your destiny and find a new direction that you enjoy
- Carry a grudge, keep condemning and wanting a pound of flesh from them
- Forgive, get over it, move on, love what you can love and let the rest go
- Compromise your standards because it is easier and “everybody does it”
- Stick with your standards because you are calmer inside when you do
Before you actually make the decision, check your watch and look at your SELF-RESPECT BAROMETER©.”
Now ask yourself this question, “If I choose this option, does my self-respect go up or down?” If the answer is DOWN, then you can decide to make another choice.
If the answer is UP, then go ahead and make that decision!
Remind yourself that self-respect is always the guiding light, the guidance counselor, the mentor, and the internal locus of control. Is it worth compromising your self-respect when you make the wrong decision?
When you routinely use the “SELF-RESPECT BAROMETER©” to guide your conduct, you are likely to make different and better decisions. Put your self-respect first. You then start trusting your judgment more.
Remember, your self-respect begets higher standards in you. You are therefore likely to show more respect to others, which in turn begets more respect from them.
Your “SELF-RESPECT BAROMETER©” is hiding in plain sight.
Keep the “SELF-RESPECT BAROMETER©” close by and look at it often. It will help you make important much better choices as well as decisions. As you progress, your character will get stronger and the quality of your life will improve.
Establish a higher standard for yourself and your life. Life is too short to live a vanilla life. People will treat you how you teach them to treat you.
People will respect you directly proportional to your strong self-respect. Respect that person in the mirror!
Commit to Integrity, Responsibility, Generosity of Spirit, and then share your values and spread them around.
You are quite a role model!
At your service,
Dr. J. Mitchell Perry