The true test of character is if you do the right thing when nobody is looking.
I have always enjoyed this quote because it is easy to do the right thing while others are looking. But the true test of character is if doing the right thing is automatic whether someone is looking or not. Growing up, my mother would preach about having good character. She would make the statement about values and principles, which took me a while to understand. Mom would state, “Values are what you live by, and principles are what you stand on.”
As I gained an understanding of what my mother was describing is, we all say we have values, which we do. In fact, our values should be demonstrated in the way we live each day. However, for a value to become a principle it must be automatic, without thought. If I state that I have a value of trust and honesty, and I encounter a $5 bill on the floor that was underneath a chair that you were sitting in, my immediate reaction would be to inform you of the $5 bill, whether you were aware or not. If I gave thought to keep the $5 bill, then my value of honesty and trust has not become a principle yet.
As a youth, we may struggle with this, as my mother knew. Therefore, she was constantly teaching the lesson as great coaches do. Planting the seeds is always important. I remember preaching this message to my youngest and sometimes wondering if the message was getting through. Now that he is in his late twenties and at times, he will send me a message stating, “thanks for always teaching me about good character. You may have thought I was not listening at times, but I was, and I understand the message so much as I grow older. Thank you for the love behind the message.”
Receiving this text message meant so much and brought a big smile. I am so proud of the man he has and is becoming. Most of all I am so appreciative of the seeds my mother planted in me and I am sure at times she wondered if I was listening. Honestly, I long to hear her voice out loud, as I do in my mind, to appreciate that what is preached and taught to us is truly a sign of deep love.