Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Character and the Things We Do

"Indeed, the power of mere activity is often overrated. It is not what the best men do, but what they are, that constitutes the truest benefaction to their fellowmen. The thing that men do get their chief value, after all, from the way in which they are able to show the existence of character which can comfort and help mankind. Among the people whom we know, it is not necessarily those who, meteor-like, are ever on the rush after some visible charge and work to whom we owe the most. It is often the lives, like the stars, which simply pour down on us the calm light of their bright and faithful being, up to which we look and out of which we gather the deepest calm and courage. It is good to know that even when we can no longer do something for our fellowmen, we can still be something for them; to know, and this surely, that no man or woman of the humblest sort can really be strong, gentle, and good without the world's being better for that goodness." Phillips Brooks, Sermons: The Purpose and Use of Comfort, pg. 105

Does anyone else out there ever have a difficult time responding to the question, "So what did you do this week?" For some reason, whenever someone asks me that, my mind goes blank and I can't remember a single thing of note that I did in the past few days. I remember being busy, but I have no idea what I was doing. A little bit unsettling, to tell you the truth. Could be because I'm still not getting enough sleep.

But I do think part of the problem is that I want to be able to say something fantastic like, "I ran a marathon and then spent the rest of the afternoon writing my next best-seller." Because I care too much about what other people think and for some reason, I think I need to list a bunch of "interesting" things that I do to show that my life and myself are full of amazing things.

That's why I like the quote above. My little sister just sent it to me and it really grounded me. Who we are isn't a list of things we do that look good on paper or sounds good out loud to the rest of the world. We are the things we do and say that most people will never know about or maybe even care about. It is the choices we make when we are alone or with our family and friends or the door we hold open for someone or when we encourage someone as they try and try again to do something hard. It is not doing something because it looks good. It is doing something because it feels right and good. I wish I could say I lived this way more completely. (And I'm not saying that marathons are bad things or flashy. I would love to be able to accomplish something like that.)

I think the Savior was especially good at this. He sought no one's approval but His Father's--and who He was truly made the world and everyone who would ever live on it, better.

Greatest in the Kingdom by J. Kirk Richards


I immediately think of the apostle Paul and of the prophet Joseph Smith when I think of people who stopped caring about what other people thought of them. I admire them for living what they knew to be true.

"Joseph Smith describes Paul’s character: “He saw a light, and heard a voice; … some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad. … But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise.” Then Joseph adds his testimony regarding his own vision, revealing his own strength of character; “I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it.” (JS—H 1:24–25.) Joseph Smith was a man of great, noble character that the Lord knew he could trust, no matter what the sacrifice.
President David O. McKay said: “Man’s chief concern in life should not be the acquiring of gold, or of fame, or of material possessions. It should not be the development of physical prowess, nor of intellectual strength, but his aim, the highest in life, should be the development of a Christlike character.” (McKay, True to the Faith, p. 32.)"  Robert E. Wells, "The Cs of Spirituality"

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