Character grows upon the foundation of absorbing attitudes. It derives from internalizing precepts. Character forms when it exists under healthy authority, the authority of someone, or some ideology. For character to grow, it must remain in this state of willing subjection to its chosen higher power.
As adults, we are mindful, resistant, or mindless of this crucial dynamic. If we are mindful, then we choose appropriate authority and subject ourselves to it. If we are resistant, then we evolve by reaction, choosing the authority that we will stand against. If we are mindless, then we passively absorb the attitudes and precepts of our culture. Either way, a character forms.
Willing subjection says, “I am less, you are more, and I will follow”. It says, “Yes” without question. And here is the twist. As we are properly under authority, we gain authority. There is no other graceful path to constructive empowerment. As we are in a state of chosen subjection, gracefully under authority and internalizing its precepts, something magical happens.
As we come under authority, our character grows. We become empowered, and one day we notice our promotion. We begin to see that we have followers. We realize that others are entrusting themselves to our care, coming under our authority and often, we don’t even see it coming. This journey of coming under authority, and then having authority, is an organic process that yields incredible life for all who embrace it.
Authority, subjection, obedience, and internalizing precepts are not popular ideas in modern times, but the facts remain. They are the vehicles by which we grow healthy and strong in character. People of healthy character have principled power, and therefore they wield positive and proactive influence. Absent the authority principle, we act out relationally void or relationally destructive power with those around us.
To see what I mean, look around at the leaders of our generation. You will easily see their chosen relationship with authority. Some are mindless “chameleons of culture”, subtly corrosive of the best within us. Others are resistant and they create division everywhere they turn. Fortunately, some are mindful, always embracing a higher path, and they the ones who win our hearts and minds.
I’m under authority. Not perfectly by any means, but I am. It keeps me growing and deepening in character. And I’m pleased to see evidence of my subjection, obedience, and internalized precepts. I’m a leader, I have followers, I have positive influence, and I never once sought for this to happen. This is just the way that it rolls. There’s a continuum of relating with authority ranging from “mindless” to “mindfully resisting” to “mindfully embracing”, and we have a choice of where to place ourselves upon that line.
What is character to you? How do you think it develops in adults? Have my thoughts stirred a reaction? Are you “under authority”? If so, then who, or what ideology are you in subjection to? I hope you will weigh in on these matters. Your answers are crucial to the growth of the Lead Change community.
The Path to Character – Copyright © 2011 Thomas Waterhouse. All rights reserved.
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