character is not a competition

“I’m not talking to your brother right now, I’m talking to you!”

These were some of my least favourite words when getting disciplined as a child. If I’d been fighting with one of my brothers or together we had done the wrong thing, my Mum would send each of us to our room to think about what we’d done. When she came in to talk to me I was always ready to tell her how the actions of a brother had led to my behaviour. And she would shut that down – you always have a choice, your actions were either right or wrong, this is not about your brother it’s about you. 

Character is not a competition. 

She was right. My brother’s selfishness didn’t excuse my own. Their dishonesty didn’t justify mine. Their poor management of their anger or frustration didn’t relieve me of the need to be patient or tolerant. 

Character is not a competition. 

Your character is about YOUR honesty, generosity, integrity, reliability, graciousness, humility, strength, compassion, genuineness, service, respect and patience. It is not being ‘more honest’ than the next guy or ‘more generous’ than another. Your character is about you. It’s about who you are in your unchecked self, when no one is looking; when there’s nothing to be gained as much as it is revealed in your responses to adversity, disappointment or stress.

When your character is questioned it is never a suitable defence to compare yourself to another. That can be an exceptionally low bar. Prisons are full of people who demonstrated blatant disrespect for the law and for others – they don’t become the new standard for our behaviour! Sexual misconduct isn’t minimised by comparing it to a rapist. Dishonesty isn’t made okay because ‘at least you didn’t embezzle millions of dollars’. You will always find someone whose actions are worse than yours but that doesn’t make yours better. 

Character is not a competition – it’s a continual striving to be humble and teachable to have who we are refined. To be constantly becoming more of who we could be – increasing in reliability, compassion, other’s focus, tolerance and forgiveness. A mark of poor character is a person who will point to the actions or attitudes of others as a means of deflecting the focus or requirement from themselves. 

Hear my mum’s words “I’m not talking to them right now, I’m talking to you!”