Every day we face decisions that challenge our character. Often these challenges aren’t direct or obvious, they are small and almost inconspicuous. Sometimes it’s as simple as making the last fix on a report at work when the deadline is closing and everyone else has stopped caring about the quality. Sometimes it’s being the only adult in the conversation when all you want to do is scream – and quite frankly, the others deserve to hear it.
Character is making and keeping commitments with your supervisors at work. When you are asked to complete a task and allowed to pick your own deadline, it takes a huge lack of character to blow right past it and not communicate why or when.
A person of character communicates in advance their progress, challenges, and estimated completion date. A person of character finds a way to get the job done and meet their commitments.
When I was a missionary, I once watched another missionary get reprimanded. He was a district leader – a young missionary asked to lead and supervise 8 – 10 missionaries in a local area. I knew the situation and knew that the district leader had a good reason for his decision. However, when he was reprimanded, that district leader never explained the circumstances. He took his “lumps”. I later pulled him aside and asked why he hadn’t defended himself.
He said the reason didn’t matter, it was his responsibility and his mistake. His example stuck with me. I don’t entirely agree with a “no excuses” approach, however, there’s still an admirable principle there. Owning your leadership decisions regardless of where the road takes you. And if he had a good supervisor, they would have asked why. If that supervisor had cared about teaching, there would have been a “lessons learned” discussion.
When I was a teenager, a youth leader taught us to make a list of the qualities we wanted in a spouse and then, become that person. If you want to marry a patient spouse, you should be a patient person. Patience tends to attract patience. Fun-loving personalities attract fun-loving personalities. This motivated a discussion with my mother. She said above all else, you should marry someone with character.
People with character commit themselves to making their marriage work. Two people who are committed to making their marriage work can survive anything heaven or hell throws at them. Note that I said, TWO people. ONE person cannot hold a marriage together for very long.
On one of our first dates, my husband spent hours telling me all the bad decisions he had made in his life. I really didn’t want to know. However, I soon married him because he was a “survivor”. No matter what life threw at him or how bad his mistakes, his faith was like a rock. He still believed in the goal of having an eternal family. I somehow knew that his strength of character would get us through this life to eternity.
I find it comical how many moments I’m tripping across lately when a little lack of character would make my life a lot easier. There’s a big difference between “picking your battles” because your plate is already full, versus looking the other direction when problems arise.
Picking the best example data to demonstrate technical performance would make my life easier, but picking the worst example (which may result in a violation or issue) and trying to address it is more honest and more difficult.
Every day we decide whether the problematic corner cases in our lives are significant and worth addressing. We decide which trend our personal character will follow. I am realizing this trend does not increment in large obvious steps, but in small baby ones.
Molly A. Kerr
Molly is on a life long quest to figure herself out. Born to be and educated as an aerospace engineer she is also blessed to be a wife and a mom of two in the present, previously served as a full-time missionary, is consistently called to teach the youth in her ward, is eagerly though slowly doing home improvement as money and time allow, all while gradually learning how to be herself and find peace and balance somewhere in between. Despite her attempts to make “the right” decisions in her life, she has learned to deal with some unexpected challenges over the last two decades. Total tornadoes, really. What she has discovered is that her career has taught her a lot about the Gospel and being a better mother, and the Gospel, when applied to challenges at the office, has made her a better professional. She has also learned that it is okay to be herself, and God still loves (and forgives) her for it.