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Character Matters
March 2011
Character Trait – Heart:
Check It Out. – What Does It Matter? – How Does it Count?
by Lori Coeman
Character Trumps Comfort
“The thing that reveals character,” according to John MacArthur, “is involuntary response, not planned response. Your character isn’t manifest by what you prepare to do. It’s manifest by what you’re not prepared for and how you react to that, that involuntary reaction. That shows character.“*

MacArthur goes on to say that it is the things that catch us off guard in our encounters with others that reveal the real weakness of our hearts. Those tests and trials provide benchmarks to help us see how far along we are in developing character in ourselves and our children.

Home education gives us the opportunity to not only deal with academics, but with heart attitudes. Yet heart attitudes are hard to measure because they deal with the thoughts and intentions of the inner man. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says that we humans cannot know truly what is in the heart of our child or another person; only God can. But we can get a pretty good clue by watching what happens in those pressure moments.

Luke 6:45 tells us that our actions spring from what is in our heart. If we have been diligent to instill character, that “good treasure” will yield positive actions. Of course the opposite is true as well. So if you want to get an idea of how well your character training is progressing, watch what happens when your child (or yourself) encounters an obstacle, is put under pressure, faces disappointment, or finds things aren’t going according to plan.

Take note of your child’s reactions in your lesson plans or homeschooling journal. See if a pattern develops. If so, you’ll know what your next goal is for character training.

In case you missed that subtle hint, character training must be intentional. We need to identify what values and character traits we want to instill in our children; writing them down gives us a checklist to serve as a reminder. Consulting the list from time to time will help us as parents be more aware, looking for those teachable moments to discuss a particular trait. By tying the instruction to a specific incident – those unplanned, involuntary responses that MacArthur described – the instruction becomes personal and is more likely to stick.

The mother’s anointing to provide comfort and security for our children sometimes gets misdirected in those unplanned, involuntary responses. Too often we want to intervene, rush in, and make everything better for the child, rather than seeing the moment as an opportunity to build character. Building is hard work, and can sometimes hurt.

Here’s another clue as to how character building is coming along: does your child feel entitled to everything that is available in our culture? Does your child expect you to fix every situation that comes along? Does your child expect homeschooling to always be fun and not boring? Does your child immediately expect coddling? You see, sometimes character building trumps coddling and comfort.**

*The Restoration of a Sinning Saint,
** Character trumps comfort comes from social worker and family counselor Christine Rossi.
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Image Credit: © Giuseppe_R -

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