06 Jul '13
Character: The hidden self
What people see of us is a small portion of who we really are. Our thoughts, motives, intentions, intimacy with Christ, or lack of it, the habits that we practice, or don’t, the practices we cultivate in our hidden lives are the powerful but hidden core of who we are and they form the character that flows out of us. Too often we focus on ensuring that what people see ‘looks good’ rather than focusing on the hidden character that ensures instead that what people see is ‘genuine.’
What would happen if we concentrated on cultivating the deepest part of who we are rather than cultivating the ‘image’ we want others to see?
Proverbs 4:23 puts this into perspective: “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” Everything we truly are flows from our heart – that hidden part of us – so if we want to be everything God wants us to be and made us to be the first focus of our lives will be in protecting our hearts and growing into the likeness of Christ.
Who we really are comes out when we are under pressure or in pain. What will flow from our minds, lips and actions will be what we have cultivated in our hearts. Nothing more, nothing less.
What is success? Certainly we value accomplishing the job we have set out to do, being intentional in our lives, fulfilling our Key Result Areas and Annual Ministry Plans (see previous posts) and being productive. But none of these rises to the level of importance of guarding our hearts and growing into the likeness of Christ.
Solitude, time alone and without distraction where we can quiet our hearts, spend time in the presence of our Father, listen to his voice, be nourished with is word and think deeply about our hidden selves is the most important thing we do. For out of the heart will flow what we really are. Nourishing our heart is the key to real success for without the nourishment we are nothing more than spiritual anorexics.
Why do we find this so difficult when we know it is so important? Because it is hidden! Others do not see what is in our hearts, and the demands of life and work are so pressing. But we ignore our hearts to our peril. The public ‘us’ is only an extension of the private ‘us.’ Just as the iceberg we see is only an extension of the greater part of the iceberg we don’t see. Character is what we are when no one is looking – and character is formed in the dark, before we need to exhibit it.
Jesus regularly withdrew to “a private place to pray” and spend time with the Father. How often do we follow his example? Is there room in our busy lives to do ‘soul work,’ allowing Him to mold our thinking, our priorities, our passions and our innermost hearts? Is our private life ‘robust and healthy’ or ‘anorexic and stale?’ The answer to that question will contribute to our success or failure more than any other issue.
Take some time – alone – and think about it.