Process 5: Building Character

by teresalaynebennett


photo of two young women hugging and forgiving

Forgiveness – character-building par excellence

This process-thing works in the deeper, more important areas of our lives, too. Let’s use forgiveness as an example. 

If you believe in God, you know He’s commanded you to forgive. It isn’t an option; it’s a command. Even if you don’t believe in God and Dr. Phil is your Higher Power, you know that forgiving others is one way we keep ourselves mentally and emotionally healthy and happy. It has very little to do with the person who wronged you; it has everything to do with what’s best for you.

Yes, the process of building
good character is tough.

Forgiveness, like the cultivation of almost every other good character trait, can be a long and tedious process with erratic progress. We can’t let go of the hurt and disappointment right away because our feisty human nature keeps us dwelling on the broken promises, hurt, and betrayal. 

And then, we get distracted and we forget for a few days. As we forget, the hurt lessens, and our eventual ability to forgive completely seems more feasible. On and on it goes, this process, until one day we’re astonished to find that we’ve actually forgiven that person and we truly bear them no ill will. (Trust me if you’re not there yet, it can and does happen.)

While we may not want them in our lives anymore, we realize we’ve given up wishing their computer would crash – daily. We no longer fantasize about their car getting totaled – in the parking lot, of course; we don’t have a death wish for them, after all. We no longer wish that their beloved twelve-year-old dog dies a long and expensive death. The process may have taken a very long time but – and here’s the real point – it did occur. While we weren’t paying attention, it did occur.

That’s how
the character-building process goes.

Few of us have the time or the inclination to be reflective enough to pay attention to the processes of our lives as they’re occurring. On the contrary, we tend not to notice processes until later – much later. The real key, then, when it comes to benefiting from knowing about this whole process thing, is to pay attention and learn from the character-building process as it unfolds.

Let’s go back
to the profitable character trait
of forgiveness.

Forgive. Today. Just a little. Declare a moratorium on remembering the unjust wounding for just today. Too hard? The hurt too deep? Promise yourself no remembering for just this morning, just an hour, or whatever seems doable to you. Do it again tomorrow.

Celebrate your little successes: “Good for me. I didn’t once think of how much I’d like to strangle her today!” Keep it up. Forgiveness and all the other worthwhile character traits make us feel SO much better. And if we’re paying attention, we get the additional pleasure of observing a healthy new good-character habit as it progressively forms in our own lives.

red box with white text of Jesus' quote from Mark 11: "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

© 2013 Teresa Layne Bennett