Luther Blackmon
Clermont, Florida

Character is the sum total of individual characteristics molded together in one life. Let us not be deceived by thinking that character maybe built on one virtue. One may think he is a man of great character because he is prompt in paying his debts, while he shows contempt for other virtues. Others stand tall in their own estimation because they are active in all civic and youth developing projects. Their children may not have heard daddy and mother pray in years, or heard a chapter read from the Bible or spent an hour in a church assembly in their lives. But daddy is a character builder because he is active in community projects designed to build stronger bodies and a competitive spirit. This is fine as far as it goes, but I am reminded here of a little three-legged dog that lives across the street from me and comes to see me often. He is alright as far as he goes, but three legs are not enough for a dog.

Another takes a great deal of satisfaction from the fact that he is far ahead of many church members in helping distressed and needy neighbors. He may drink and play poker with the boys and maybe trifle on his wife a bit when he goes out of town on business, but he is a man of character. Such a man is about as well rounded as a two-headed calf. He is a moral and spiritual freak.

Character is made up of many things: Honesty, both financially and intellectually, integrity, unselfishness, respect for others, reverence for God, and many like qualities. Sometimes these things do not come easy to a person. We must fight and strive to acquire them.

But it has always seemed to me that the man, who has the hardest fight, if he wins, has the strongest character. The tree that stands on the hill, exposed to the weather makes better lumber than the tree that is sheltered in the valley. The gold does not shine so brightly until it has passed through the fire; grapes do not make wine until they are crushed; the bird often sings sweeter when he is pinioned on a thorn. Parents in their misguided love often seem to forget this, and try to shield their children from the very things that build character. They do not want them to "have to work like I did"; try to give them everything they want; let them grow up without respect to any authority much, except their own will. I suppose they think that somehow God will work a miracle and give them character in spite of their foolish parents, but this is not the way it works.

April 29, 1971