Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who lived in Ephesus around 500 B.C., once made this statement: “The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think, and what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny – it is the light that guides your way.”1
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made this same line even more famous in a speech in Washington D.C., in 1963, when he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” But character is not something we are born with, it is something we develop. As Heraclitus said, its content is based on what we choose to build it with.
Whether these quotes were part of his inspiration or not, character was also an essential part of what Thomas D. Willhite, founder of PSI World,2 a nonprofit service organization and PSI Seminars, taught as a motivational speaker who traveled around the world. In his speeches, he always emphasized the importance of choosing what we want to build our character and future upon. In one of his manuscripts we read, “People get what they want in life when they reach the point at which they can see themselves having what they seek.3
There is one thing we know about Good Character, we recognize it when we see it. Maybe more importantly, we know when it is missing. Every day headlines tell us about individuals lacking character. The main stories feature more than the common criminals, it includes politicians and business leaders, who make the front page with incidents of bad character. Bad character knows no boundaries.
The good news is that good character knows no boundaries either. Good character is exemplified every day and too often goes unnoticed. Media attention gets attracted to stories of bad behavior too often. But character is more than visual. Character is engraved on our hearts. The engraving isn’t something we dream about, but something we’ve accomplished. The word “character” comes from the Greek kharakter that means “engraved mark.” In other words, it just doesn’t show up, it has to be placed there on purpose to identify its source.
The Bible is very vocal on the subject of character. Solomon once said, “The person who is right in their walk is sure in their steps, but the person who goes the wrong way will be exposed.”4 And again Solomon wrote: “A good name is to be chosen instead of many riches. Favor is better than silver and gold.”5 But what God said to Samuel is so insightful when he went to anoint a new king for Israel: Don’t choose someone by the way they look on the outside or how tall they are, that’s not what I’m looking for. As the Lord, I don’t look at the things the way a human does. Human’s look at the outside of a person, but I, the Lord, I look at their heart.6
In short, don’t try to fool people by putting on a persona or disguise. Be your true self by developing the character you want people to recognize you. Take the time to study, pray, and seek advice to build the person God wants you to be. Jesus gave us a great outline in his Sermon on the Mount.7 And to this, you can add the Apostle Paul’s famous list of character traits.8 Not only will you be received well down here on earth, but you’ll be more than welcomed up above. – Dr. Robert R Seyda
1 Heraclitus of Ephesus: in Philosophy and Spiritually
2 PSI is the twenty-third letter of the Greek alphabet. Willhite took it to represent parapsychological or psychic faculties or phenomena.
3 Thomas D. Willhite: Living Synergistically, PSI Publishing, p. 52
4 Proverbs 10:9
5 Ibid., 22:1
6 I Samuel 16:7
7 Matthew 5:3-16
8 Galatians 5:22-23