Building Heroic Character

 Ever feel like you are overrun by the mundane in your life?   Having dinner with some friends the other night and our conversation quickly turned to life and significance.  We all could agree that significance comes from something bigger than ourselves and for us around the table, we agreed, that something bigger was Jesus.  We wrestled with this reality in a western worldview where we are always looking for the epic score;  the extraordinary accomplishment, the large task in which we are called to provide leadership or something else that is high profile and therefore significant.  While heroism is key in these situations, especially to lead from our values and character, there is a lot of life that is... well mundane.  The day to day tasks that seem to come and go; like maintaining a house, caring for a family, loving your spouse, doing the laundry, driving the kids to school, grocery shopping, some interaction with others and alike.  As I reflected on this and my own struggle with a sense of relative obscurity and hidden-ness, I became aware in many ways, that it is often more heroic to live deeply and faithfully in the mundane.  Let me explain.

We often get all buoyed up about the epic tasks.  This excitement, the perceived importance and scale stimulates us and inspires us.  Knowing that what we do is culturally important and also usually very public, we are motivated to perform, to do our best.  This is natural and can be such a wonderful experience.  However, with the quiet everyday things, those that are routine, ignoble, and chances are we will never receive a pat on the back for them, it is often easy to despise them and cut corners.

Leadership is defined not by the scale of the opportunity but by the quality of the response. - Chris Lowney, Heroic Leadership

   Consider: most folks would never think of stealing $1000’s of dollars from their employer but hardly give it a second thought when it comes to taking company owned stationary for personal use and often - our time (think non-business web surfing, excessive personal phone calls and long lunch breaks, etc.).   This is not a guilt trip but only to point out that if it is wrong with the big things, it is wrong with the small, and this is where it becomes truly heroic.  In the small, mundane things we find it hard to care because seemingly they are insignificant to us or others. Our lives can become truly heroic when we choose to live by our values and character in every situation regardless of scale or who is watching.  It is in doing so that the mundane and seemingly insignificant tasks and decisions take on meaning, not only because they position us towards a greater ideal (something bigger than ourselves), but they become training tools to prepare us for when the epic tasks and decisions need to be made.

   True heroic living is not something that magically appears for the big tasks / situations. Heroism is cultivated in all of life - as we are faithful in the small things we will be faithful in the big things.  Heroic living is not a collection of good ideas and practices we keep on the shelf until we need them, rather they are practiced every moment of every day.  This is faith in everyday life.

   It is heroic every time someone chooses to live for something bigger than themselves, and these include the ideals and values we hold.  To work with integrity through employment responsibilities, that may seem unfulfilling.  To being faithful to love our families and serve them, not as an obligation but as a deliberate act of love.  Choosing the good, to love, to be faithful and honest even when there is no direct benefit to us is heroic living!

   Our governing values shape our responses to tasks and situations, and it is important that we connect those values to all of the life that occurs between the monumental tasks.  In doing so, we will learn to appreciate the significance of each choice we make - to choose to serve and care for our family, to be faithful to our spouse, honour our employer and so on.

   Values are principles and ideas that bring meaning to the seemingly mundane experience of life. A meaningful life that ultimately brings happiness and pride requires you to respond to temptations as well as challenges with honor, dignity, and courage. - Laura Schlessinger

The Take Away

  • Understand heroism is cultivated by choosing to live everyday with character.
  • True character is revealed under pressure even when that pressure may be passive.  It takes courage to face that passive pressure and stick to your values.
  • All of life has the potential of being significant- We can grudgingly endure it or leverage it for significance!
  • Walk the talk- live Big even in the small things.
  • Live Up by being true to yourself in all of life - after all, it is you that you have to look at in the mirror and sleep with at the end of the day!

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