building character

Where Character Begins

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My mom believed a person’s character reveals what he or she really believes about life. Is it important to be honest? Is it important to obey your parents all the time, or just important not to get caught disobeying? Is there a God who really rewards good character, or is it okay to do whatever it takes to win? Building character in children is an important role for every parent.

That motherly guidance has impacted me professionally. Because of the premium my mom put on character, I look for it in the people I work with. My style in creating a coaching staff was to hire talented coaches and teachers and let them do their jobs. This meant I had to have people I could trust, because I wasn’t going to spend my time checking on them. I didn’t want coaches or players who were not going to represent us well, on or off the field. One of the most important attributes in a person, perhaps the most important, is character. Here is where I believe character begins, when character is revealed, and how character is developed.

Where Character Begins

Character begins with the little things in life. I must show that I can be trusted with each and every task, no matter how trivial it may seem. By the time I was a teenager, my dad let me stay out pretty late playing basketball with my friends. It didn’t happen right away—I couldn’t be out at midnight when I was thirteen. But gradually, my parents gave me a little more freedom, usually to stay out later with someone they knew would keep an eye on me. By the time I was 16 or 17, they knew: If I said I was playing ball with my buddies in East Lansing or Ann Arbor, that’s exactly what I was doing. I wasn’t involved in anything that could get me in trouble. They had watched me grow and had given me enough opportunities to test my character that, by then, they knew they could trust me.

“Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones,” wrote Phillips Brooks, an American clergyman in the 1800s. Over time, we create ourselves and build character through the little acts we do.

When Character is Revealed

When it comes to character, the game of football can be a real test for the players. During any given season, they will have many moments when their character will be challenged. Will they decide to do the right thing, even when they know doing so will be difficult?

Character is revealed at crossroads. What are the values that guide the decisions players make in their day-to-day lives? Training camp reveals them early. A person’s reaction to winning, success, fame, recognition, and acceptance reveals character. Would you rather be described as successful and famous or as honest, forgiving, faithful, trustworthy, understanding of others, reasonable, thoughtful, and personally accountable?

How Character is Developed

Character is tested, revealed, and further developed by the decisions we make in the most challenging times.

Character is tested, revealed, and further developed by the decisions we make in the most challenging times. We have to know what is right, and we have to choose to do it. That is how character is developed—by facing those decisions and choosing the right way over and over until it becomes second nature. It’s just how you do things. Outwardly, character reflects an inner life committed to honor and uncompromising integrity. If we haven’t allowed our players, subordinates, or children to grow into those values and learn to be accountable for themselves, then we have done them a disservice. In a common world, becoming an uncommon man begins by cultivating uncommon character.

Sound off: How do you think it is best to develop character in our children?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What does it mean to be a person of character and why do you think it’s important?”