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Behavior vs. Character

September 20, 2010

One thing I have noticed lately is the dichotomy between behavioral change and character building.  Let me define what each means.  Behavior–the way we act, Character–who we are.  Good behavior stems from good character (almost always), and the same is true of bad behavior and bad character.  That is the natural progression.

I have been observing lately, however, that most people seem to think (or if they don’t think, they act like they do) that it’s the other way around, that character somehow stems from behavior.  It can be said that working on ones behavior can help them see the character issues at the root of that behavior, but if one is wanting a lasting change in their behavior, those roots will have to be addressed.  If you cut weeds in your yard, and don’t pull them up, they will just grow back.  Its the same with character and behavior.

Why am I talking about this?  Because I see the Church approach this issue backwards all the time, especially with teens or new believers.  The church tells people that acting a certain way is important without necessarily addressing the heart issues that are involved.  So what happens is,  we look like a bunch of hypocrites who can get our acts together, but are still rotten human beings.  That isn’t exactly a good representation of the gospel.

The Church, believers, should be more about shaping and growing in good character, not good behavior.  This is something I am constantly wrestling with in my own life.  I grew up learning the what-to and what-not-to-dos of being a Christian.  But now that I am in the real world, outside of the safe bubble I have been wrapped in my whole life, I find myself in need of some real character building.  I know how to appear humble, without that being an actual character quality I possess.  I know how to behave like someone who loves people well, without actually feeling love for everyone that I encounter.  I know how to act wise and mature, but may be foolish and immature at heart.

Good behavior is a great thing, but it’s only pleasing to God when it stems from our heart, from knowledge of His character and His work in our own.  So let’s stop behaving and start being.  I guess that starts with me.

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