This time of year—the period between Halloween and Thanksgiving—has always been a contemplative season for me. As the days grow darker and the weather cools down, I become less distracted by external happenings and find myself spending more time mining the depths of my own mind and soul. This can admittedly be a scary place to be, and in the past, my rumination has led me to some pretty dark places: in my ever-present drive for perfection, I often move quickly from self-examination to self-flagellation.
This year feels different. In these, my final couple of months of pre-motherhood, my self-reflection has taken on a more positive tone. As I prepare to bring a new life into this world, my capacity for grace—both for others, and for myself—seems to have expanded. I’m viewing myself through a much kinder, gentler lens. And though my hyper-critical tendencies have certainly not evaporated, they are tinged with a quality that is constructive rather than abusive. Where my mind would previously have defaulted to dwelling on my flaws, I am now choosing to take a proactive approach. Instead of growing increasingly disgusted with who I am, I’m pondering the type of person—and wife and mother—that I want to be, and taking steps to become that woman.
I recently listened to a Focus on the Family podcast in which the interviewee mentioned a character development system she has implemented with her kids. Every year, the children in her family each select a character trait to focus on throughout the next twelve months. These traits range from politeness to generosity, and the children spend the year learning about and practicing these particular qualities. I love this idea, and am filing it away as something to try with my little guy when he gets older. But until then, I don’t think that this project needs to be exclusive to children. Wouldn’t it be equally effective for me as an adult? What better way to lay the groundwork for a strong character in my son than working on my own character traits before he even gets here? I think we all have room for a bit of character development in our lives!
Character has been defined as “the stable and distinctive qualities built into an individual’s life which determine his or her response regardless of circumstances.” In other words, our character is responsible for our attitude, our actions, and ultimately the outcomes of our lives. Character is a composite of numerous traits—some more important than others, I’m sure, but all of which are worth cultivating.
In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I’m going to spend some time here on the blog (and in my personal life) exploring a few character traits that I think are worth being evaluated. I’ll be looking to understand what these traits are, exactly, and how I can strengthen my own character “muscles.” In keeping with my theme of self-compassion, I don’t expect to achieve mastery in any one of these areas, but I do hope to become more aware of qualities that are lacking and begin taking steps to build them up. I’m looking forward to sharing my journey with you, and hope to inspire some character cultivation in you as well!
Have you ever worked to intentionally cultivate specific character traits in your own life? Which traits do you feel could use some cultivation in your life right now? Let me know in the comments; let’s embark on this journey together!