Life is an ongoing process of self-discovery that often leads us to a crossroads where we are required to make a choice, live in denial and justify my own (often bad) learned behavior or step up and be the man I was born to be. A quote by Dr Johan Ferreira, succinctly sums this up, “Necessary suffering leads me into silence where I am gently confronted by the crossroad of ego or metamorphosis”.
One of the most valuable lessons thus far, sadly very late, would be the real and practical importance of having a set of values to live by. I have heard the word and thought I understood it’s meaning but it has only been in the last couple of years that the importance of a solid value system has become a practical guide and compass on how to hang in there as I grow every day to be a better man, husband and father.
At The Character Company we have 5 specific values, values that I have adopted for my own life and that we as a family try to live by. As I try every day to live by these values I have experienced a better understanding of what they mean to me and how valuable they have are. There are many ways to interpret these values in your own life, but let me share some of my thoughts on these;
Honesty - to tell the truth even when it hurts. Society demands that we live better, drive better and do better than our neighbours, our friends and family - wanting to take shortcuts to this success is the root of corruption. And it starts innocently enough, cheating at your first test in school when you were too lazy to study or paying a bribe to get out of fine because you’re late for a lunch date. Part of honesty requires that we express our vulnerability, admit that we don’t have all the answers and not worrying about what the “neighbours’ think.
Respect - to treat others the way you want to be treated. It is so easy to rationalise our behaviour and feel offended when we have been ‘disrespected’. Yet how often do we take the time to think about the other point of view. Really look at our own actions and make sure we have demonstrated respect wherever possible. Respect can only be earned when it is given. Sadly, we live in a country where we show very little respect for woman and that is something that we need to change. Start by respecting yourself so that you can respect others.
Courage - to face your fears and conquer them. Courage is something everybody wants – an attribute of good character that makes us worthy of respect. Feeling fear yet choosing to act. Courage is not just a physical experience, it requires just as much of us to stand up for what we believe in.
Self Discipline - to do the right thing before someone tells you to do so. This can be as simple as picking up the paper in the playground or keeping quiet in class before the teacher tells me to, through to not skipping the red light or texting while I am driving. Discipline is necessary for all of us, it gives us boundaries and security but often there are not people around us to guide us so we need to get to a place where we can do that for ourselves.
Kindness - to have a good heart. We live in a world that is very unkind at the best of times, we tend to be self-centred and self focussed leaving many injured people in our wake. Being kind to others requires that we are kind to ourselves. Be kind to your heart, be kind to your soul, be kind to your body and be kind to everyone around you - not just those who make it easy.
In the end, as I often tell our boys, these values help me to become a better man and by becoming a better man I can make this world a better place. Just imagine how different this world will be if more people, every day, just try to live by a set of values?