Mind, Character and Personality/Character Formation
Every Act Influences Character—Every act of life, however unimportant, has its influence in forming the character. A good character is more precious than worldly possessions, and the work of forming it is the noblest in which men can engage.—Testimonies for the Church 4:657 (1881).
The Mind Is the Garden, Character the Fruit—Every faculty in man is a workman that is building for time and for eternity. Day by day the structure is going up, although the possessor is not aware of it. It is a building which must stand either as a beacon of warning because of its deformity or as a structure which God and angels will admire for its harmony with the Divine Model.
The mental and moral powers which God has given us do not constitute character. They are talents which we are to improve and which, if properly improved, will form a right character. A man may have precious seed in his hand, but that seed is not an orchard. The seed must be planted before it can become a tree. The mind is the garden; the character is the fruit. God has given us our faculties to cultivate and develop. Our own course determines our character. In training these powers so that (p.546) they shall harmonize and form a valuable character, we have a work which no one but ourselves can do.—Testimonies for the Church 4:606 (1881).
A Noble Character Formed by Stern Battles With Self—Christ has given us no assurance that to attain perfection of character is an easy matter. A noble, all-around character is not inherited. It does not come to us by accident. A noble character is earned by individual effort through the merits and grace of Christ. God gives the talents, the powers of the mind; we form the character. It is formed by hard, stern battles with self. Conflict after conflict must be waged against hereditary tendencies. We shall have to criticize ourselves closely and allow not one unfavorable trait to remain uncorrected.—Christ’s Object Lessons, 331 (1900).
Meditation and Action Essential—Abstract meditation is not enough; busy action is not enough—both are essential to the formation of Christian character.—Testimonies for the Church 5:113 (1882).
Develop Good Mental Habits—If we would develop a character which God can accept, we must form correct habits in our religious life. Daily prayer is as essential to growth in grace, and even to spiritual life itself, as is temporal food to physical well-being. We should accustom ourselves to lift the thoughts often to God in prayer. If the mind wanders, we must bring it back; by persevering effort, habit will finally make it easy. We cannot for one moment separate ourselves from Christ with safety. We may have His presence to attend us at every step, but only by observing the conditions which He Himself has laid down.—The Review and Herald, May 3, 1881. (The Sanctified Life, 93.)
Earnest Purpose and Steadfast Integrity Essential—Thoroughness is necessary to success in the work of character building. There must be an earnest purpose (p.547) to carry out the plan of the Master Builder. The timbers must be solid. No careless, unreliable work can be accepted, for this would ruin the building. The powers of the whole being are to be put into the work. It demands the strength and energy of manhood; there is no reserve to be wasted in unimportant matters.... There must be earnest, careful, persevering effort to break away from the customs, maxims, and associations of the world. Deep thought, earnest purpose, steadfast integrity, are essential.—Special Testimonies On Education, 75, 76, c1897. (Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 62.) Keeping the Eye on the Goal—Peter says, “Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity” (2 Peter 1:5-7)....
All these successive steps are not to be kept before the mind’s eye and counted as you start; but fixing the eye upon Jesus, with an eye single to the glory of God, you will make advancement. You cannot reach the full measure of the stature of Christ in a day, and you would sink in despair could you behold all the difficulties that must be met and overcome. You have Satan to contend with, and he will seek by every possible device to attract your mind from Christ.—The Youth’s Instructor, January 5, 1893.(Messages to Young People, 45, 46.)
Faithfulness in Little Things (counsel to a young man)—Your case is similar in some respects to Naaman’s. You do not consider that in order to perfect a Christian character you must condescend to be faithful in the littles. Although the things you are called to do may be of small account in your eyes, yet they are duties which you will have to do just as long as you live. A neglect of these things will make a great deficiency in your character. You, my dear boy, should educate yourself to faithfulness in small things. You cannot please God unless you do this. You cannot gain love and affection unless you do just as you are bidden, with willingness and pleasure. If you wish (p.548) those with whom you live to love you, you must show love and respect for them.—Testimonies for the Church 2:310 (1869).
Character to Be Tested—It makes every difference what material is used in the character building. The long-expected day of God will soon test every man’s work. “The fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:13). As fire reveals the difference between gold, silver, and precious stones and wood, hay, and stubble, so the day of judgment will test characters, showing the difference between characters formed after Christ’s likeness and characters formed after the likeness of the selfish heart. All selfishness, all false religion, will then appear as it is. The worthless material will be consumed; but the gold of true, simple, humble faith will never lose its value. It can never be consumed, for it is imperishable. One hour of transgression will be seen to be a great loss, while the fear of the Lord will be seen to be the beginning of wisdom. The pleasure of self-indulgence will perish as stubble, while the gold of steadfast principle, maintained at any cost, will endure forever.—The Review and Herald, December 11, 1900. (The S.D.A. Bible Commentary 6:1087, 1088.)
Undisciplined Characters Are Discordant—Characters formed by circumstance are changeable and discordant—a mass of contraries. Their possessors have no high aim or purpose in life. They have no ennobling influence upon the characters of others. They are purposeless and powerless.—Testimonies for the Church 4:657 (1881).
No One Can Injure Character as Much as We Ourselves—We may expect that false reports will circulate about us; but if we follow a straight course, if we remain indifferent to these things, others will also be indifferent. Let us leave to God the care of our reputation.... Slander can be lived down by our manner of living; it is not lived down by words of indignation. Let our great anxiety be to act in the fear of God and show by our (p.549) conduct that these reports are false.
No one can injure our character as much as [we] ourselves. It is the weak trees and the tottering houses that need to be constantly propped. When we show ourselves so anxious to protect our reputation against attacks from the outside, we give the impression that it is not blameless before God and that it needs therefore to be continually bolstered up.—MS 24, 1887. (3 BC 1160, 1161.)
Controlled by Will—You cannot control your impulses, your emotions, as you may desire, but you can control the will, and you can make an entire change in your life. By yielding up your will to Christ, your life will be hid with Christ in God and allied to the power which is above all principalities and powers. You will have strength from God that will hold you fast to His strength; and a new light, even the light of living faith, will be possible to you....There will be in you a power, an earnestness, and a simplicity that will make you a polished instrument in the hands of God.—Testimonies for the Church 5:514, 515 (1889).
Defects Can Be Overcome—Let no one say, I cannot remedy my defects of character. If you come to this decision, you will certainly fail of obtaining everlasting life. The impossibility lies in your own will. If you will not, then you can not overcome. The real difficulty arises from the corruption of an unsanctified heart and an unwillingness to submit to the control of God.—Christ’s Object Lessons, 331 (1900).
To the heart that has become purified, all is changed. Transformation of character is the testimony to the world of an indwelling Christ. The Spirit of God produces a new life in the soul, bringing the thoughts and desires into obedience to the will of Christ; and the inward man is renewed in the image of God. Weak and erring men (p.550) and women show to the world that the redeeming power of grace can cause the faulty character to develop into symmetry and abundant fruitfulness.—Prophets and Kings, 233 (1917).
Defective Characters Sometimes Inherited—There are all kinds of characters to deal with in the children and youth, and their minds are impressionable. Many of the children who attend our schools have not had proper training at home. Some have been left to do as they pleased; others have been found fault with and discouraged. Very little pleasantness and cheerfulness have been shown them; few words of approval have been spoken to them. They have inherited the defective characters of their parents, and the discipline of the home has been no help in the formation of right character.—Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 192 (1913).
Defects Strengthen With Years—The children learn lessons that are not easily unlearned. Whenever they are subjected to unaccustomed restraint or required to apply themselves to hard study, they appeal to their injudicious parents for sympathy and indulgence. Thus a spirit of unrest and discontent is encouraged, the school as a whole suffers from the demoralizing influence, and the teacher’s burden is rendered much heavier. But the greatest loss is sustained by the victims of parental mismanagement. Defects of character which a right training would have corrected are left to strengthen with years, to mar and perhaps destroy the usefulness of their possessor.—The Review and Herald, March 21, 1882. (Fundamentals of Christian Education, 65.)
Indulgence Unsettles Character—In some families the wishes of the child are law. Everything he desires is given him. Everything he dislikes he is encouraged to dislike. These indulgences are supposed to make the child happy, but it is these very things that make him restless, discontented, and satisfied with nothing. Indulgence has spoiled his appetite for plain, healthful (p.551) food, for the plain, healthful use of his time; gratification has done the work of unsettling that character for time and for eternity.—MS 126, 1897. (Child Guidance, 272.)
Mind and Heart to Be Disciplined—Children who are allowed to have their own way are not happy. The unsubdued heart has not within itself the elements of rest and contentment. The mind and heart must be disciplined and brought under proper restraint in order for the character to harmonize with the wise laws that govern our being. Restlessness and discontent are the fruits of indulgence and selfishness. The soil of the heart, like that of a garden, will produce weeds and brambles unless the seeds of precious flowers are planted there and receive care and cultivation. As in visible nature, so is it with the human soul.—Testimonies for the Church 4:202, 203 (1876).
Habits Formed in Youth Mark the Life Course—By the thoughts and feelings cherished in early years, every youth is determining his own life history. Correct, virtuous, manly habits formed in youth will become a part of the character and will usually mark the course of the individual through life. The youth may become vicious or virtuous, as they choose. They may as well be distinguished for true and noble deeds as for great crime and wickedness.—The Signs of the Times, October 11, 1910. (Child Guidance, 196.)
A Day-by-Day Experience—The intellect is continually receiving its mold from opportunities and advantages, ill or well improved. Day by day we form characters which place the students as well-disciplined soldiers under the banner of Prince Emmanuel, or rebels under the banner of the prince of darkness. Which shall it be?—The Gospel Herald, Jaunuary, 1880. (Child Guidance, 199, 200.)
How Character Is Formed—It is very delicate work to deal with human minds. The discipline necessary for (p.552) one would crush another; therefore let parents study the characters of their children. Never be abrupt and act from impulse.
I have seen a mother snatch something from the hand of her child which was giving it special pleasure, and the child would not understand what to make of the deprivation. The little one burst forth into a cry, for it felt abused and injured. Then the parent, to stop its crying, gave it a sharp chastisement, and as far as outward appearances were concerned, the battle was over. But that battle left its impression on the tender mind of the child, and it could not be easily effaced. I said to the mother, “You have deeply wronged your child. You have hurt its soul and lost its confidence in you. How this will be restored I know not.”
This mother was very unwise; she followed her feelings and did not move cautiously, reasoning from cause to effect. Her harsh, injudicious management stirred up the worst passions in the heart of her child. To act from impulse in governing a family is the very worst of policy. When parents contend with their children in such a way, it is a most unequal struggle that ensues. How unjust it is to put years and maturity of strength against a helpless, ignorant little child! Every exhibition of anger on the part of the parents confirms rebellion in the heart of the child.
It is not through one act that the character is formed, but by a repetition of acts that habits are established and character confirmed. To have a Christlike character it is necessary to act in a Christlike way. Christians will exhibit a holy temper, and their actions and impulses will be prompted by the Holy Spirit.—The Signs of the Times, August 6, 1912.
Importance of Perseverance—In perfecting a Christian character, it is essential to persevere in right doing. I would impress upon our youth the importance of perseverance and energy in the work of character building. From the earliest years, it is necessary to weave into the (p.553) character principles of stern integrity, that the youth may reach the highest standard of manhood and womanhood. They should ever keep the fact before their eyes that they have been bought with a price and should glorify God in their bodies and spirits, which are His.—The Youth’s Instructor, January 5, 1893. (Messages to Young People, 45.)
Usefulness Depends Upon Personal Decision—While parents are responsible for the stamp of character as well as for the education and training of their sons and daughters, it is still true that our position and usefulness in the world depend to a great degree upon our own course of action. Daniel and his companions enjoyed the benefits of correct training and education in early life, but these advantages alone would not have made them what they were. The time came when they must act for themselves—when their future depended upon their own course. Then they decided to be true to the lessons given them in childhood. The fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom, was the foundation of their greatness. His spirit strengthened every true purpose, every noble resolution.—Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 28, 1890. (Counsels on Diet and Foods, 29.)
A Perilous, False Philosophy—Spiritualism asserts that men are unfallen demigods; that “each mind will judge itself”; that “true knowledge places men above all law”; that “all sins committed are innocent”; for “whatever is, is right” and “God doth not condemn.” The basest of human beings it represents as in heaven, and highly exalted there. Thus it declares to all men, “It matters not what you do; live as you please, heaven is your home.” Multitudes are thus led to believe that desire is the highest law, that license is liberty, and that man is accountable only to himself.—Education, 227, 228 (1903).
How to Be Overcomers—We must meet all obstacles placed in our way and overcome them one at a time. (p.554) If we overcome the first difficulty, we shall be stronger to meet the next, and at every effort will become better able to make advancement. By looking to Jesus we may be overcomers. It is by fastening our eyes on the difficulties and shrinking from earnest battle for the right that we become weak and faithless.—The Youth’s Instructor, January 5, 1893. (Messages to Young People, 46.)
Giving All Every Day—By taking one step after another, the highest ascent may be climbed and the summit of the mount may be reached at last. Do not become overwhelmed with the great amount of work you must do in your lifetime, for you are not required to do it all at once. Let every power of your being go to each day’s work, improve each precious opportunity, appreciate the helps that God gives you, and make advancement up the ladder of progress step by step. Remember that you are to live but one day at a time, that God has given you one day, and heavenly records will show how you have valued its privileges and opportunities. May you so improve every day given you of God that at last you may hear the Master say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).—YI, Jan 5, 1893. (Messages to Young People, 46.)