Our character emerges from our deepest held beliefs –our deepest held religious beliefs. This is true because who or what we worship is at the root of all our moral choices. So, that’s deep, right? Well, how about an easier test?
When we are watching a movie and a character does something that’s disappointing, irritating, or wicked, how do we react? We react against him and inwardly distance ourselves from him. However, when a character does something noble, sacrificial, or beautiful, we immediately admire her and want to be like her. We do all this without necessarily making a mental choice. It just happens inside our hearts.
Well then, we must watch the movie of our lives. We must become readers of our own life story, as well as characters. Do you like to kick puppies? Have you thought about what a man who kicks puppies looks like in a movie? (Hint: it’s bad.)
I have long thought of this as the “That kind of guy test.” Do I want to be that kind of guy? Do I want to be the kind of guy who throws a paper towel at the trash can, misses, and just leaves it there? Yeah, it seems like a small thing, but do I want to be that kind of guy? Does the kind of guy who does that do bigger things consistent with that momentary laziness?
What about something a little more personal? You know your own life and your own story. If you’re brave enough to read that book, watch that movie, and evaluate –as if you were a neutral party– if this guy doing this thing is a character that you admire, or despise. Maybe it’s not always as clear as either admiring, or despising a particular action. It often is.
I’m not trying to provide you with ammo to destroy yourself in a mental self-evaluation. Don’t go there. But the only way to start to change for the better is to see things clearly. Maybe watching that story unfold (your own life story) is devastating and it feels like your character is so far gone there’s no hope. Hey. This is simply not true. The bigger the enemy, the more grand the victory. There’s a great story to be told in the mess of our lives. But we must be bold and get at it. Maybe start with only one thing and go from there. No one can fight and win on a hundred fronts. Pick one battle with one enemy and give him both barrels. I bet you want to be “that guy” who was brave enough to face the long odds. I do.
As I said, deep down our actions are a result of what we worship. Everything is religious because God made the world. The true journey is deeper than just evaluating ourselves properly as characters, but in the miracle of having a heart aligned to the Author. That’s the big story, the tale of the Marriage of Heaven and Earth: Immanuel’s Song.
My plan is to pray for that alignment to deepen and to honestly, earnestly seek it. (I think this mainly means remembering who I already am.) At the same time I want to engage in the evaluation and change that characterizes a hero I’d admire in a tale. Yes, I want to be that kind of guy.
Image from The Hubble Space Telescope