How do You regain lost Character — Especially if You never had any?

I am often accused of being arrogant.  When I ask people why, they usually tell me it is because I think I know it all; I have an answer to everything.  I wish I could make these people understand that I do not think I have an answer to everything.  However, what I have are a set of well thought out principles and ideals.  Anyone who has a well defined system of principles and ideals already knows how they must respond to many given situations.  It is not a matter of trying to decide how you ‘feel’ about every given situation, but a matter of how you have chosen to respond to them beforehand.  Sadly, I think this is one of the most important things the current generations have lost when compared to those of our recent past.  The Greatest Generation had a very well defined system of principles and ideals, and that’s what carried them through the Depression, WW II and the Cold War.  But today’s generations have rejected the very notion of principles and ideals, and the world is suffering for it. War.

Beck has recently started to try to explain this to his radio audience.  I just don’t think he is doing as good a job at it as he usually does.  Maybe it’s because he is still trying to work through it himself.  After all, it is difficult to explain something to others if you do not fully understand it yourself.  So — if I may be so presumptuous — perhaps I can give Mr. Beck a hand.

I am fond of saying that the Declaration of Independence is the soul of America.  It is the what and the why of this nation.  It is our moral compass.  The Declaration defines who we are and what sort of people we want to be.  The Constitution is just the how.  All it does is tell us how we will try to achieve the goals set forth in the Declaration.  So, if America forgets the Declaration — and it has — then the Constitution becomes meaningless.  That’s because the principles and ideals which built this nation are all contained in the Declaration, not the Constitution.

So what are principles and ideals and why are they so important?  Well, a principle is a fundamental law or assumption by which we govern our actions, and an ideal is a standard of perfection which we strive to achieve and by which we judge our choices and actions:

Full Definition of PRINCIPLE

1a :  a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption
b (1) :  a rule or code of conduct (2) :  habitual devotion to right principles <a man of principle>
c :  the laws or facts of nature underlying the working of an artificial device
2:  a primary source :  origin
3a :  an underlying faculty or endowment <such principles of human nature as
greed and curiosity>

Full Definition of IDEAL

1:  a standard of perfection, beauty, or excellence
2:  one regarded as exemplifying an ideal and often taken as a model for imitation
3:  an ultimate object or aim of endeavor :  goal
Now, it is possible for humans to know and understand a principle (such as all men are created with equal rights) and even to know and understand the ideal by which we measure that principle (such as equal justice by an equal application of the law) and still fall short of both.  However, if society holds to those ideals and principles, such wrongs can and eventually are set right.  The issue of slavery is a perfect example. Many of our founders opposed slavery, yet they were unable to end it at the time of our founding.  However, believing in the ideals and principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence, our founders wrote the 3/5ths clause into the Constitution.  Today, ignorant people and those who seek to make a living off of race-baiting claim this is proof that our founders thought a black man was only worth 35ths of a white man, but this is not the truth of this clause.  The 3/5ths clause guaranteed that the South would eventually have to face the issue of slavery or — eventually — they would loose their voting power to the Northern, anti-slavery States.  When he actually read the Constitution, Frederick Douglas — a black man who initially believed the lie about the 3/5ths clause — declared that it was the most anti-slavery document of which he was then aware.  And it was largely because of this clause, driven by the guiding principles and ideals of this nation, that slavery was eventually abolished in this nation.
But then, the founders were bound by moral laws that the majority of modern Americans have rejected.  They accepted the moral laws of the Bible, and they wrote them into the civil laws governing the nation and its several States — as the Bible commanded.  Our founders were principled people and they received a profound benefit for being so.  It is why this nation flourished and became so great so quickly.  And now that we are no longer a nation of principled people, it is why we are failing just as quickly.
Now don’t get me wrong: men have always been corruptible, and our founders were no different.  It’s just that — in their day — society still understood right from wrong and people held each other accountable for their actions.  And because society held a common set of principles and ideals based on Biblical laws of morality, most people knew what right and wrong were.  That way, when faced with a situation where a modern American might see all sorts of shades of gray, our founders saw black and white and knew what the right thing to do was without having to ask themselves how they ‘felt’ about the situation.  And, if they chose to do the wrong thing anyway and got caught, the majority of people in our founders’ time accepted their guilt because they knew they had done wrong.  Sadly, this is no longer the case.  The majority of Americans not only cannot see right from wrong, when they are called to account for their actions, their first instinct is to blame anyone else but themselves.
Sadly, Thomas Paine was correct when he said:
“Character is much easier kept than recovered.”
Too many Americans have not only lost their character, they never really had any.  So I’m not sure how to recover that which never was — especially when we live in a nation apparently hell-bent on destroying any sense of personal accountability at all…provided you belong to the proper political mindset, that is.  If you happen to be politically incorrect, or worse, a Christian who actually believes and tries to live their faith, why, then you will be held accountable to an impossible standard.  I just think it is ironic that this nation’s only real hope to correct its slide into the abyss is to recover our national character, yet this nation is becoming increasingly hostile to the source of that character — Jesus Christ!  One cannot regain what they never had through their own effort.  At least, I’ve never seen anyone manage to do it.  But I have seen the power of Christ to radically transform the worse among us, both in my own life and the lives of others.  That’s why I cannot understand how or why so many reject the solution to our personal and national problems when it is as easy as surrendering to our Savior and letting Him heal us.  Then again, accepting Jesus means accepting His rules, and that seems to be too much for the majority of people to accept.  After all, how can you love your neighbor and still blame them for your actions?  Or allow them to go in need while you have more than you can use?

3 thoughts on “How do You regain lost Character — Especially if You never had any?

  1. Wow, I can truly relate to that first paragraph. People have told me the same. I don’t think I know everything; in fact the more I learn, the more humbled I become as I realize just how little I know. However, *they* think I’m a “know it all”, because I seek Truth, and am willing to share what I’ve learned, and it is more than they know.

    You mention principles and morality. I have a definition of principles I have found useful and would like to share, since the definition above alludes to, but doesn’t simply state it. Plus this definition connects principles and evil, which you clearly get into above with discussion of morality. I think it is important to draw a parallel to the modern day dilemma you discuss here, lack of principles and morality, and a prolific explosion of (man’s) law.

    First, definitions of freedom and evil:

    “The definition of freedom is the infinite value of the human being. The definition of evil is the destruction of freedom. Everything that is evil teaches people that they have limited value.”

    Next, this excerpt

    “Principle versus law

    To understand how evil controls people, it is necessary to understand the difference between principle and law.

    A principle is a truth that creates freedom.
    A law is a lie that creates slavery.

    Principles describe reality. They are knowledge that help you to make use of your world. Because of your intelligence, you recognize principles in everything you do. Every true thing you learn is a principle. The movements of your hands, which foods taste good, mathematics and empathy for a friend are all based on principles.

    Laws are artificial ideas created by evil men to restrict the thinking and understanding of people. Laws mask themselves in authority so that they can impersonate principles. When people mistake law for principle their freedom is restricted.

    When people mistake truth for the ideas of authority, their abilities and their wisdom are diminished. This is the purpose of law.”

    Excerpted from The End of All Evil, by Jeremy Locke.

    Click to access End-Of-All-Evil.pdf

    For too long, people have mistaken ideas of authority for truth, and their abilities, wisdom, and morality have been diminished, as you point out above.

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