“Character is long-standing habit.” –Plutarch
In my search for the life of Christ-like character, I’ve come across one incredible finding: avoiding habits of character actually waste our time.
Let me give you an example.
I spend a lot of time on my phone—checking emails, responding to texts, scrolling through Facebook, etc. I sometimes do this when people are talking to me, or when I’m in the presence of others. The person of character, I believe, would prioritize the relationships in the room. I, however, chose the habit that didn’t add to character, and instead wasted my time doing something unproductive.
We all possess everyday habits that waste our time.
Instead, we could weed out these habits, and replace them with more Christ-like habits—or habits that actually build character and make us better people.
But first, we have to identify the habits that don’t make us better people. Consider these few everyday habits that waste time rather than build character:
- Filling silence with noise. When a quiet moment comes, it can be tempting to fill it with the melodies of music or the sounds of television. But if we learn to be still in the silence, we can familiarize ourselves with our inner voice once again—to discover what we truly believe rather than having media tell it to us.
- Feeling guilty for imperfection. Instead of feeling bad for not being the best father, mother, leader, student, etc., what would happen if we stopped wasting time with these feelings and turned them into something productive? We can’t be perfect, but it helps no one to ruminate on this fact. What actually helps is moving on and doing something about it.
- Rushing to the next moment. Our schedules can rule us. But they don’t have to define us. We can be the people who sit with others and give them our full attention. The next moment doesn’t have to call the shots. So let’s actually sit with people instead of rushing off to what’s next.
- Silently judging those we disapprove of. Judging others is bad, but it’s even worse when we don’t communicate our judgment. Judgment left unspoken can lead to bitterness that drives us deeper into frustration and hatred. Instead of being silent about judgment, let’s weed it out by actually expressing what makes us angry. That’s the fastest approach to purging ourselves of judgmental attitudes.
- Giving ourselves too much praise. We can live in our accomplishments for as long as we want, but the more we call attention to it, the more we waste our time. Humility allows us to accomplish great things and move onto the next thing. Boasting just keeps us prideful and complacent.
- Not reflecting on challenging times. It’s tempting to ignore challenging times in our lives. We can just pass through them and never think about them again. But the people who grow from their struggles are the ones who return to those uncomfortable feelings. These people learn from challenging times so they don’t repeat them again.
- Chasing overnight success. The success that requires nothing is appealing. But all success requires some hardship. Without hardship fortifying the foundation of our character, success isn’t truly success. This is what leads to people burning through lottery cash and ending up in further debt. The person of character works hard to achieve success—they don’t hope for instant success.
- Being reactive rather than proactive. Jesus was proactive when He forgave Peter for denying Him three times before He even committed this action. Jesus didn’t want to waste time. He had a purpose for Peter, so He wanted Peter to understand that He wouldn’t hold this against him. Jesus knew this would happen, and chose to proactively solve it so Peter could return to his purpose as soon as possible. If we were proactive about our problems, we could return to our purpose faster as well.
- Not seeking purpose in the morning. How we spend our morning can define the rest of our day. Jesus understood this and woke up early with the purpose of praying and seeking God. By making a habit of waking up without purpose, we sink into days that drag on without purpose. Let’s reintroduce purpose into our days again.
- Giving up before really trying. Fear always attempts to squash our potential. The only thing that helps us realize potential is the courage to keep trying. Stop giving up before exhausting the courage to try again.
- Putting on a show. Life doesn’t have to be a performance. You don’t have to have the longest prayer, or the best speech, or the most insightful comment in a conversation. If we can cut out the performance of our everyday actions, we can actually do and say the things that are closer to our heart.
- Trying to make the wrong decision right. We all make bad decisions. But many of us waste time by trying to turn these wrong decisions around and somehow make them right. Truth is, bad decisions will always remain bad decisions. The choice then becomes whether or not we will continue to sit with the repercussions of that decision, or move on.
- Giving people the answer they want to hear. Jesus never told people what they wanted to hear about the Kingdom of God. This would result in people who would be committed for the wrong reasons—people who would shame the Kingdom instead of bring glory to it. Giving people the answer they want to hear only hurts us and complicates our mission. Let’s strive for honesty, even when it’s brutal.
- Pursuing strategies instead of friendships. We love networking and evangelizing, but so often, these strategies fulfill an agenda for ourselves and ignore the possibility of friendship. If we pursue friendships instead of making people into strategies, both parties would benefit.
- Playing the victim. People with a victim-mindset believe the world has dealt them a bad hand. Instead of making the most of their surroundings, they take up space. It’s easier to believe that the world is against you. It justifies you and makes an enemy of your circumstances. But the reality is, God did not make us products of our circumstances; He made us victors over our circumstances. We just have to embrace the courage to fight back and find victory rather than sink low with a victim-mindset.
The choice of character ensures that we make the most of our time here. This is why I want habits of character. I no longer want to waste moments in my everyday life. I want to dive into all that life has for me. I want to live like Jesus and have a life that accomplishes something meaningful instead of waste time.
Let’s all discover that life. Let’s all reclaim our time by choosing character every day.