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Character Matters
August 1, 2009
Character Trait –Thoughtfulness:
Check It Out. – What Does It Matter? – How Does it Count?

Cautious. Conscientious. Circumspect. Sober. Prudent. All of these words have fallen out of popularity in our fast-paced, superficial society. In fact, most of us would probably not want to be thought of as a sober-minded prude. That's just too old-fashioned, and conjures up images of dour old-ladies who never smile and never enjoy life.

But do you know that the definition of a prude is someone who is wise, discrete, sober, and precise? At least that is what the word originally meant as defined in Webster's 1828 Dictionary. Likewise, a cautious person isn't someone who shies away from taking on a task, but someone who is careful of evils and the dangerous effects and consequences of certain actions. To be circumspect means to look at something from all sides and views, and from every angle. It literally means looking at something all around, carefully examining all the circumstances that may affect the outcome.

Maybe these words aren't so bad after all! They can be summed up in one character trait: thoughtfulness. Probably the first idea that pops into our head when we read that word is someone who is thoughtful towards others and does nice things to help people. Certainly that's part of it. Such a person has taken the time to think about the person and what can be done to help them or make them feel better.

In the fullest sense, though, this character trait refers to taking the time to think through one's actions BEFORE acting. That's why most character studies list thoughtfulness as a component of responsibility. If you are responsible for something or someone, then you better think through all the possible conditions and consequences. It means being thorough. It means being a wise steward.

When the Apostle Paul writes about the difference between walking in the light of God's revelation and walking in darkness in Ephesians 5, he reminds us to walk circumspectly in order to make our time count and live according to God's will for our individual lives.

The sticky point here is that thoughtfulness requires time. Time to think. Time to examine all the options. Time to weigh the consequences of various actions. Unfortunately, most of us feel as if we don't have enough time. Yet if we're honest with ourselves, we know there is an element of truth to the old adage: haste makes waste.

Chances are we've told our children that rushing through an assignment just to get it done doesn't cut it. And how often have we explained that if they had only taken the time to show their work, they would have seen where they made the mistake in their arithmetic computations.

It's important that we teach our children to be conscientious about their school work because it creates a habit of being thoughtful in all they do. It's also important that we teach our children the reasons why we believe what we believe and why we have certain ways of doing things in our household (the infamous “Rules of the Household”). It gives them a sense of vision and responsibility that will carry them well into life.

Thoughtfulness enables us to fulfill Paul's advise to the Corinthians: whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of G od (I Cor. 10:31).

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