Improve Yourself and Develop Good Character
By Joy Haney.
“For in him we live, and move, and have our being: as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28).
We were created in God’s image. He wants us to walk in integrity and to become what we were created to be. We owe it to ourselves to develop good character, to be honest, and to work at improving ourselves. The greatest thing we can do in life is to please God! To have His approval and have Him work with us is the ultimate!
It is our privilege and duty to: “Live the strong life. Keep right with God. Be an overcomer. Think great thoughts. Be strong. Think thoughts of strength, beauty, love, and courage and the power of a fine personality will grow and develop.”
Integrity will guide a person as stated in Proverbs 11:3: “The integrity of the upright shall guide them.” The first president of the United States based his life and presidency on one of the qualities of good character; that of integrity, shown in the following quote:
Integrity and firmness are till I can profuse. These, be the voyage long or short, shall never forsake me, although I may be deserted by all men; for of the consolations, which are to be derived from these, under any circumstances, the world cannot deprive me.
— GEORGE WASHINGTON (1732-1799)154 This statement was in a letter written April 1, 1739, to Henry Knox four weeks prior to assuming the Presidency.
Proverbs 19:5: states what happens to those without integrity: “A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape.”
Every person who seeks to be successful should seek to be truthful and honest. Integrity is as pure gold, but it cannot be bought! No matter the state of a person as of right now, anyone can seek to have integrity and improve their character; it can be attained.
To improve is to make something better, to make progress, or to advance instead of retreating. There are deposited into every life bitter experiences that should only sharpen and shape the character into something more magnificent. Sadly, there are some souls who, when situations invade their world that have the potential of building character, wither, when the case should be just the opposite: a blooming should take place. True success can never be achieved without the scalding hurts and disappointments that force their way into each of our lives.
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.
The best things often come when a soul has come face to face with setbacks and defeats. They are the very things that help sharpen the senses and remove confusion. Without them life would be one long party, and people would become soft, lazy, and unfulfilled. To push against an obstacle strengthens the soul.
During the interval of pressure and struggle, this is the time to look at those who have improved during their struggles. It has been said that people are in competition with themselves, and that is fine if the person keeps pressing toward betterment but often this is not the case. He becomes satisfied with less because he has no one to look to inspire him to greater things.
People seldom improve when they have no other model but them selves to copy after.
— OLIVER GOLDSMITH ( 1728- 1 774) British poet, playwright, and novelist
When anyone becomes discontent with self, it is essential for that one to understand it is time for self-improvement and a strengthening of inward character. This should be done with a healthy outlook and not the sickness of the ultra perfectionist, in which things can never be right and the person can never be content. We can accept our limitations if they are not self-imposed, but we should never accept bad character.
Blessed is the man who, seeing his own face as in a mirror and haunted with a divine discontent at the manner of man he is, goes on to perfection. — AUTHOR UNKNOWN
Hold back nothing in your quest for good character and self-improvement, for the very core of life consists of what a person is, does, and thinks. These determine everything about a person and the quality of life he or she enjoys. The largeness of eternity should beckon us to greater things, and the miracle of life should not be wasted but lived to the maximum.
Bad will be the day for every man when he becomes absolutely contented with the life that he is living, with the thoughts that he is thinking, with the deeds that he is doing, when there is not forever beating at the doors of his soul some great desire to do something larger, which he knows that he was meant and made to do because he is still, in spite of all, the child of God.
— PHILLIPS BROOKS155
To be rich is to be full of good character or working to attain it. Temporal riches without character are in vain. They only lead to dissatisfaction and emptiness. True riches reside inside a person. This is what colors our world and our everyday lives.
There is nothing that makes men rich and strong but that which they carry inside of them. Wealth is of the heart, not of the hand. —JOHN MILTON
It is not enough to have ability and talent; these can only elevate a person so far. What makes people act the way they do is what is important. That is the root cause of the matter. As someone once said so ably:
Ability may get you to the top, but only character will keep you there! — AUTHOR UNKNOWN
Principles are important and are the very fiber of life! People cannot act any way they please and expect to reap a harvest of good things. Careful daily planting of good deeds based on a code of ethics will harvest bountiful rewards. Morality is essential to help foster good, healthy relationships throughout society, in the work place, and in the home. Theodore Roosevelt said, “To do right at all times, in all places, and under all conditions, may take courage, but it pays, for the world is always looking for moral heroes to fill its high places.” 156
General principles . . . are to the facts as the root and sap of a tree [are] to its leaves.
— SAMUEL TAYLOR COLE RIDGE (1772-1834) English poet, essayist, and critic
The struggle to have and to apply and enforce good principles in everyday life is a challenge but must be done for healthy growth. Years ago someone wrote the following, which still applies in today’s world:
THE SEVEN MODERN SINS
Polices without principles Pleasure without conscience Wealth without work
Knowledge without character Industry without morality Science without humanity Worship without sacrifice.
— AUTHOR UNKNOWN
The famous author, Leo Tolstoy, once penned the words that in many instances are true. They are as follows:
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself
— LEO TOLSTOY (1828-1910) One of Russia’s most celebrated writers of fiction
Tolstoy was also an important moral thinker and a social reformer. Tolstoy wrote War and Peace (1865-1.869), “which was perhaps the greatest work in the whole range of Russian realistic fiction, and Anna Karenina (1875-1877), one of the great love stories of the world.”
Tolstoy’s parents died when he was a boy, and he was brought up by relatives. As a youth, Tolstoy had often pondered over difficult questions concerning the meaning and purpose of life. At the age of forty-six, seemingly happy, prosperous, and famous, these questions bothered him so much that he felt he must try to find a solution to them.
He read widely in religious and philosophical books and talked and corresponded with many wise men for several years. He then believed he had found an explanation to life’s meaning in the true significance of Christ’s preaching “to resist not evil.” Tolstoy believed that every man had within himself the power to understand what is good and that man would justify his life on earth by striving to do good for himself and others. He condemned all violence, gave up tobacco and intoxicating liquors, and became a vegetarian. He dressed simply, worked in the fields with the peasants, and tried to be as self-sufficient as possible. He preached charity and helped others in distress. He insisted that society would become better only when all men and women tried to become more perfect in their personal lives and learned to love each other. His unusual views and principles and his way of life often brought him into conflict with the government and even with his own family.
Tolstoy, as many others, was in search of making the world a better place. His summation that society would become better only when all men and women try to become more perfect in their personal lives and learn to love one another is foreign to many people. As some have said, “It’s a dog eat dog world out there.” The question is, “Do we allow the world situations to dictate to us how to act, or do we form our own set of actions based on a higher authority, the Holy Bible?”
People cannot operate according to their own intellect but just be guided by the “divine fire” of inspiration. Each of us is one person, but together we make a whole; therefore, it is important to make the best of ourselves because we are a part of one another.
Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you. — RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Often when someone is trying to make the best of his life, he comes under attack and is criticized. But criticism can be a friend.
Dale Carnegie told the following story that proves this:
I know a former soap salesman who used to even to ask for criticism. When he first started out selling soap for Colgate, orders came slowly. He worried about losing his job. Since he knew there was nothing wrong with the soap or the price, he figured that the trouble must be himself When he failed to make a sale, he would often walk around the block trying to figure out what was wrong. Had he been too vague? Did he lack enthusiasm? Sometimes he would go back to the merchant and say: “I haven’t come back here to try to sell you any soap. I have come back to get your advice and your criticism. Won’t you please tell me what I did that was wrong when I tried to sell you soap a few minutes ago? You are far more experienced and successful than I am. Please give me your criticism. Be frank. Don’t pull your punches. “157
This attitude won him a lot of friends and priceless advice. He eventually became the president of the Colgate-Palmolive Soap Company — one of the world’s largest makers of soap. His name was E. H. Little.
So when the criticism comes, examine it for what it is, then cull the good, throw away that which is based on jealousy and meanness, and continue in the quest of being the best you can be. It is not easy to rise higher when the beds of ease beckon. It is a fight.
The toughest wars are not fought on the battlefields, but they are fought inside the heart of a man or woman. It is easy to read and thus be inspired to live better lives, but the real battle begins when the heat of life is applied to everyday living. To change habits that erode character is not an easy thing to do, but it is possible for those who choose to fight for what is right.
Who has a fiercer struggle than he who strives to conquer himself?
— THOMAS A. KEMPIS (1380-1471) German author
Dare to be right! Dare to be true! You have a work that no other can do; Do it so bravely, so kindly, so well, Angels will hasten the story to tell. Dare to be right! Dare to be true! The failings of others can never save you;
Stand by your conscience, your honor, your faith, Stand like a hero, and battle till death! 158
Whatever happens, dare to be right and true! It does not matter if you have failed in the struggle, whether it is once, twice, or many times. The thing that matters is to be right inside of you, as you struggle to never give up. To compromise one’s ideals in order to “make it” is to die a worse death in the end. You simply must stay true to truth and God’s principles in order to succeed His way! It is not enough to succeed by man’s standards; God’s standards are the criteria for success. So stand tall and be brave in this journey called life, but never give up following the dreams God has placed in your heart! Let your conscience talk to you; don’t squelch it or put a blanket over your inner ears, but listen carefully for it is a gift from God!
So in the midst of a world gone crazy, dare to be right! Dare to be true! For this is the only way to live successfully. Any other way is a sham and in the end will be empty success.
You can become and be, as the following author penned so
No STAR IS EVER LOST
Have we not all, amid life’s petty strife, Some pure ideal of a noble life
That once seemed possible? Did we not hear The flutter of its wings and feel it near, And just within our reach? It was. And yet
We lost it in this daily jar and fret.
But still our place is kept and it will wait,
Ready for us to fill it, soon or late.
No star is ever lost we once have seen:
We always may be what we might have been.9
— ADELAIDE DELIDE A. PROCTER (1825-1864) English poetess
To conquer self is a great feat! It comes by the daily application of knowledge and combining good character with every transact ion. To be what we might be is within our grasp, but it takes effort and perseverance to do so.
To live without shame, to walk without guilt, to treat others respectfully and live each moment well are to achieve success. If only everyone would do what the famous Will Rogers so humorously said to do.
Lead your life so you wouldn’t be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.
— WILL ROGERS (1879-1935) American humorist and author
Truth comes as an inner light that shines into the crevices of our heart and mind. Enlightenment comes, and then the time comes for the choice to be made: Either improve or continue in the same dark path that leads on a downward spiral toward failure and defeat. Truth is given to improve. It is not given to crush or put down, but is given to lift one up into a greater realm of living. What we do with it determines our destiny.
Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. — WINSTON CHURCHILL (1874-1965).
SUCCESS STORY: WINSTON CHURCHILL
Churchill became one of the greatest statesmen in world history. He was also a noted speaker, author, painter, soldier, and war reporter. Early in World War II, Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany. The British refused to give in despite the huge odds against them. Churchill’s personal courage, the magic of his words, and his faith in victory inspired the British to “their finest hour.” The mere sight of this stocky, determined man, with two fingers raised high in a “V for Victory” salute, cheered the people.
Churchill not only made history, he also wrote it. As a historian, war reporter, and biographer, he showed a matchless command of the English language. In 1953, he won the Nobel Prize for literature. Yet as a schoolboy, he had been the worst student in the class. Churchill spoke as he wrote clearly, vividly, majestically. Yet he had stuttered as a boy.
He entered the service of his country in 1895 as an army lieutenant under Queen Victoria. He ended his career in 1964 as a member of the House of Commons under Queen Elizabeth II, the great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Few men ever served their country so long or so well. He became Prime Minister in 1940 and retired as Prime Minister in 1955.
Young Winston, a chunky lad with a mop of red hair, had an unhappy boyhood. He talked with a stutter and lisp and did poorly in his schoolwork. His teacher’s report reads: “The boy is certainly no scholar and has repeated his grade twice. He has also a stubborn streak and is sometimes rebellious in nature. He seems to have little or no understanding of his schoolwork, except in a most mechanical way. At times, he seems almost perverse in his ability to learn. He has not made the most of his opportunities.” His stubbornness and high spirits annoyed everyone. In addition, his parents had little time for him.
Truth came to him concerning the war. As he mulled it over, it pounded in his brain until he spoke it to a fragile nation days immediately after Dunkirk, which were darkest for the modem world. England lay prostrate. Forty-seven warships had been sunk in the operations off Norway after Dunkirk. When the evacuation was completed, half the British destroyers were in the shipyards for repairs while the Royal Air Force had lost 40 percent of its bomber strength. Britain was on the brink of famine, and her armies were without arms or equipment. They had left in France fifty thousand vehicles.
Churchill spoke: “We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on the beaches; we shall fight in the fields; we shall fight in the streets; and we shall fight in the hill. We shall never surrender and if this island were subjugated and starving, our empire on the seas would carry on the struggle until in God’s good time the New World with all its power and might steps forth to the rescue and liberation of the old.”
The following is an excerpt from a speech Churchill made to tile House of Commons on March 28, 1950:
Man in this moment of his history has emerged in greater supremacy over the forces of nature than has ever been dreamed of before. He has it in his power to solve quite easily the problems of material existence. Re has conquered the wild beasts, and he has even conquered the insect and microbes. There lies before him, as he wishes, a golden age of peace and progress. All is in his hand. He has only to conquer his last and worst enemy himself With vision, faith and courage, it may be within our power to win a crowning victory for all.
Character is the result of the cultivation of the highest and noblest qualities in human nature, and putting these qualities to practical use. – ELLA WHEELER WILCOX
You cannot dream yourself into a character. You must hammer and forge yourself one.
– JAMES ANTHONY FROUDE
Life is not mere length of time, but the daily web of character we unconsciously weave. Our thoughts, imaginations, purposes, motives, love, will, are the under threads: our words, tone of voice, looks, acts, habits are the upper threads: and the passing moment is the shuttle swiftly, ceaselessly, relentlessly, weaving those threads into a web, and that web is life. It is woven, not by our wishing, or willing, but irresistible, unavoidable, woven by what we are, moment by moment, hour after hour.
Every man is the builder of a temple called his body. . . . We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones. Any nobleness begins at once to refine a man’s features, any meanness or sensuality to imbrute them.
– HENRY DAVID THOREAU165
Character is more than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live, as well as to think. Goodness outshines genius, as the sun makes the electric light cast a shadow. – EMERSON’ 66
Character is destiny. – HERACLITUS
Character is power. – BOOKER WASHINGTON
The above article, “Improve Yourself and Develop Good Character” is written by Joy Haney. The article was excerpted from the fourteenth chapter of Haney’s book, Seeds for Success.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.