Isn’t it funny how when we’re kids, we dream of doing something great? We’re going to become famous all around the world and everyone’s going to think we’re amazing, or was that just me? I remember when I was in primary school thinking I was going to become a rock star in a band playing my hit songs to packed stadiums. Then in late primary school and early high school I discovered basketball and His Airness, Michael Jordan. I followed the NBA at every opportunity and became determined to grow to 6 foot 6 (Michael Jordan’s height) and become an amazing ball player. In between and around these dreams there were others like being a cricketer, or a rapper, or even at times a preacher. Whatever the specific skill or field, the dream was always the same: to be exceptional and become famous.
Sadly for that ambitious child, none of these things were ever meant to be. One of the things I have come to realise as an adult is that in terms of skills, I am exceptionally average. I am someone who can often pick up the basics quickly but never really excels at things. When it came to fulfilling my musical dreams, I could never quite get the hang of any instruments. I picked up the drums in high school (I know, not a real musician, but as close as I could get) and played them for a number of years. I could play a good basic rock or waltz beat, and could even throw in some drum rolls and fills, but get too fast or to tricky a rhythm and I was in trouble. It put me in good stead playing the church music of the day, and occasional jams with friends, but not much beyond that. As far as taking over the NBA, sadly I wasn’t able to will myself to grow much beyond 5 foot 9, and while my skills generally got me on the starting 5 in a social roster I was never going to get much beyond the lower grades. And so it’s gone with a lot of things, writing, public speaking and photography amongst others. Always ok and good enough, but never great.
So why am I writing this? For sympathy or words of encouragement? Nope, not at all. But this feeling over overwhelming averageness did leave me with a question: How can someone as average as me make a difference? How can I make an impact if I can barely make an impression? It seems like all the people who are out there making a difference have something special about them, something that makes them stand out. But I can’t see anything about myself that puts me in that category, does that mean I should give up? Should I just forget about trying to make a difference and get on with being average? That just doesn’t sit right.
This got me thinking some more, what makes the difference between those who are talented, and those who are talented and impactful? The factor that comes to mind is character. Something I have been reflecting on more and more recently, is that WHAT you can do and how well you can do it is nowhere near as important as WHO you are and how you live out your life. Another way of putting it is that CAPABILITY is less important than CHARACTER. This may seem like a cop out to some people: “You’re only saying that because you’re not good at anything”. But think about it, when you think about the famous people in our society who do you look up to the most: the ones who are constantly bringing others down or the ones who seek to have a positive influence? Who would you want your children to follow the example of: the ones who are constantly in the news for being drunk or wearing next to nothing, or the ones who care about those around them and seek to make a difference in society? I think the answer will be those who demonstrate a strength and integrity of character by living it out in their day-to-day lives. These are the ones who stand out the most, those who not only have a position of influence, but use it well.
So what character traits make the difference? In the Bible, the book of Galatians lists nine character traits called “The Fruit of the Spirit” which I think are a pretty good starting point. These are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Bible believing Christian or not, I think these are traits which we can all agree are good things to have, and all things we can aspire to. Over the next few weeks we’re going to take a look at these nine traits, why they are beneficial and how we can apply them in our lives. My character is far from perfect, each and every day I find things that I wish I’d done or handled better, so this series is going to be as much reflective for me as anything else as I try to grow and develop my character. I invite you to join me on this journey and hopefully you too will find it both challenging and encouraging in terms of growing and developing your character.