October 3, 2017

The Breakwater Effect

I think we can all agree on principle that choosing to do the right thing even when it’s hard and no one else is looking is a good goal. And we’ve spent the last several months describing ways in which you might both encourage your children toward that end and move yourself down the road as well. But why?

Why is this a good goal?

First, it keeps us grounded, personally and spiritually. When we know we’ve violated the willing-good character precept in some way, we experience inner conflict we can accurately label as legitimate guilt. And if we don’t resolve the situation, that guilt spreads like a noxious weed in a garden, slowly but surely choking out inner peace, joy, and contentment. Likewise, if we understand biblical theology, we know that even when it seems “no one” is watching, God – in His omnipresence – is (Psalm 139.7-12). Thus, when we knowingly choose to do the wrong thing, we know we’ve hurt Him, and a barrier to spiritual peace stands as an internal obstacle until we actively resolve the situation. We avoid such discord when we choose willing-good character.

Second, a decision to embrace willing-good character protects our relationships. We all know people who openly and regularly engage in negative, abusive behavior towards others, and it often seems as if they face no consequences. After a while, we might even begin to despair at doing the right thing, feeling it makes no difference. But both common sense and Scripture tell us that the results of unrepentant sin eventually catch up (Psalm 1), inevitably wreaking sometimes-irreparable havoc within and without. In contrast, though we may experience some short-term relational angst if we always choose to do right, we will eventually find reconciliation and reward (Proverbs 14.14).

Finally, a decision to embrace willing-good character helps to stem the tide of cultural decay. We can all see the tragic and exponential growth of what we might call “willing-bad character” all around us in every sphere of life; in fact, it almost seems as if “everyone else” has given up trying to be good and so, we surmise, it won’t make a difference if we allow ourselves to be swept up in the cultural current.

But if you’ve ever stood on the shore of a large body of water where either a natural or man-made breakwater exists, you know that stemming the tide is possible. A breakwater serves, quite literally, to break up the power of the incoming water so that it either comes to rest in a harbor or tide pool or at least laps the shoreline rather than smashing into it. And, of course, the larger the breakwater, the more pronounced its calming effect.

Let each of us committed to developing and practicing willing-good character think of ourselves as one stone in a cultural breakwater. One stone stems the tide a little bit and that’s good in and of itself. But many stones melded together by the Master Coastal Engineer work together – each one breaking a portion of the tide – to create peace and calm for all at the shore.
Photo Credit: Chris Sorge

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