From The Sayings of Epictitus:
The reason why I lost my lamp was that the thief was superior to me in vigilance. He paid however this price for the lamp, that in exchange for it he consented to become a thief: in exchange for it, to become faithless.
Character is made up from actions that one displays to others, even when no one is watching. One’s character traits include honesty, integrity, and patience to name a few. Each one of us have choices in life and those choices, define who we are. Whether we make the right or wrong choice, it is but our own to make. No one can take that from someone else. In my opinion, character is built throughout your entire life and yet is the easiest attribute to lose (or even gain) in a single decision that one could make.
If you steal from or lie to someone that may trust you, you may lose a friend for life or spend a lifetime trying to regain the trust in that friend. Character that is built through integrity is trustworthy and when one proves to be untrustworthy, all respect that has been earned is now lost. From the sayings of Epictitus, he teaches us this lesson exactly. While it was only a lamp that the “victim” lost, the “victor” lost most. He lost his trust from his friend. In another words, he, in exchange for his friendship, chose to dishonor him by stealing. He failed to see the consequences of his actions which were immense.
Character is not something that someone is born with but something that takes effort to earn. It is an action that one has to take each and every day. We can all determine the building of our character by consciously considering how we handle each situation. The way we speak to others, treat others, and by the things we choose to do during our own ‘free time’ can build the foundation of our character. We can choose to yell at a car at a red light for slamming on breaks or we can choose to take that moment to check our breaks. We can chose to pick up the litter outside the classroom so that the janitor doesn’t have to clean up behind us adults along with the hard job they already have. We can hold a door for others, write a card to sick ones we meet, engage in our families and/or our community. We can also take the time to grow in knowledge on how to be the best person we can be.
I can apply this to me as I am always seeking to grow in wisdom and knowledge to be more like Christ. I study the Bible, God’s Word, in order to help me be the Christian that I am supposed to be. If I only read the passages and do not apply the instructions, I have learned nothing and I have grown none. I have to take an action to demonstrate the values and morals that I have learned and actually work to be better at them through every choice I make. It is much easier said than done but this is what builds character.
Unfortunately, one may have us fooled by their ‘reputation’ rather than a true character. They may think more highly of what others think of them and their choice in action in front of others than that of which they demonstrate behind closed doors, so to speak. Again, character, or integrity, is built when one works at it even when no one is watching. True character versus reputation will always show its true colors, just as it did in the saying of Epicititus. I, for one, choose to make the extra effort to maintain and continue to build my character with each choice I cross every day.