Character is Growth

In my view, the goal of growth is character, and in the Platonic sense of forms, but not aligned with Platonic morality, the form of growth is a positive transformation in flux. The reader may inquire what is positive, and this writer would say that doing the right action even if it does not result in the best outcomes is positive in a deontological sense. Therefore, the views of this writer differ from the Greek form of character in that they support deontology, and they are also that of a born again Christian. N.T. Wright shares insights related to the kind of character that Aristotle believed all should aspire to in life in the form of dedicated behavior transformation. N.T. Wright said, “Sooner or later, you’ll be acting naturally. Second nature. That’s how virtue works” (Wright, 2010, pg. 262). Wright argued that the Christian theory of virtue is, to paraphrase, “to be learned” (pg. 223). Moreover, character in the Christian worldview or belief is the development of the God’s royal priesthood, prophet kings rather than Platonic philosopher kings. Wright’s distinction was between the theological view of character that Christians should aspire to and the prior Greek view of repeated cultivation of strengths.

N.T. Wright asserted that character transforms by a process of steps. Wright argued, “First, you have to aim at the right goal. Second, you have to figure out the steps you need to take to get to that goal. Third, those steps have to become habitual, a matter of second nature” (Wright, 2010, p. 29). Therefore, it is the view of this writer that the goal of character transformation is a consistent process of behavior. This is in agreement with Wright’s view on teleos, the goal of humanity in the world after Christ lived on earth.

In my view, the opposition of this position may be that humanity has the autonomy to decide whatever it wants in a Sartrean form of identities, that humanity is simply the result of behaviors. However, this argument excludes the morality of behavior transformation in favor of the concept of free will. Without morality, behavior alteration can be described as a story foregoing structure in that people may behave in life with certain views about humanity and the world, but this view lacks the understanding of human reason as necessary, though not sufficient to be aware of true duty. Andy Crouch shares this position in relation to cultural behaviors. To paraphrase, Crouch stated, “culture is not finally about us, but about God” (Crouch, 2008, p. 13). Therefore, starting with faith will lead to understanding of objective morals in an Anselmian sense.

During the process of leadership, students ought to consider those who came before as stated in the Biblical Scriptures as the Kouzes and Posner model asserts. An anonymous writer wrote, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (NIV, Heb: 13:7). Step one of the Kouzes and Posner model consists of “Model the Way” (Kouzes, Posner, 2004, p.38), and my understanding of that begins with the formation of a personal stance that agrees with the shared values of others. In a Christian context, this likely forgoes the corruption of Scripture that those who believe in God should worship other gods, breaking Mosaic law; rather that leaders may share the love of liberty with fellow United States citizens, for example, and can inspire the protection of that very same liberty. While the Christian view is that freedom comes from God, non-Christians can share in the care for liberty in promoting the freedom to have differing views without persecution by the law of the land. As Paul defined, to paraphrase, “for there is no authority except that which God has established” (Rom 13:1). Having that in mind, this writer’s view argues that character relates asymmetrically to the various consistent personal views that an individual person holds. Therefore, who the reader reflects on ultimately describes our own character when views undergo inversion.

While Joseph L. Badaracco Jr. wrote about the flexibility of a personal moral code, he asserted a critical point about receptiveness. The question Badaracco asked was, “Do I Have the Courage to Reconsider?” (Badaracco, 2006, p. 45). By observing Okonkwo, Badaracco defines moral flexibility as the ability to persevere through tumultuous moral dilemmas, reflect on personal failures, respond to ethical surprises, and improve personal conviction. In essence, there may be the thought that it conflicts with the Christian view of the Kouzes and Posner modeling of the way in that Jesus the Christ gave a warning of judgment. The Christ spoke, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Mat 7:1), there may, therefore, be a common view that argues all judgment should cease, but to stop all practice of considering decisions probably contrasts Jesus’ purpose in saying that. A way of interpreting this is that those seeking to learn from others should be willing to allow others to reflect on them correctly. As the Kouzes and Posner model asserts that of the Christian worldview, which considers the Christ as an authority on morality, they probably considered this to a certain extent. Furthermore, Badaracco’s reflection on Okonkwo includes the intention of others reading Badaracco’s views thus he willingly submitted to judgment, himself. Therefore, there should be no tension between the Kouzes and Posner model and Badaracco’s views on moral flexibility.

It follows that there should be flexibility in the reader’s moral code. When speaking of flexibility, this writer views that there should be, in the economic sense, substitutes for consideration with respect to the objective morals of God. For example, when King Solomon heard a dispute between two prostitutes in 1 Kings 3, he considered the substitute for the first female’s argument in the form of the second female’s argument. The lying prostitute had an inflexible moral code in that she willingly accepted the death of her own would-be baby divided by a sword in favor of the argument that she would have any portion of the baby only for herself after demanding to retain a relationship with the baby. This directly contradicts her supposed motherly behavior. Differently, the true mother had a flexible moral code, willing to lose her baby’s guardianship to save her baby’s life. This reflected King Solomon’s true intention thus the mother and baby reunited. In the Biblical context, flexibility in moral code can be the defining trait of a person’s life thus character is a goal in flux.

Bibliography

Badaracco, J. L. (2006). Questions of character: Illuminating the heart of leadership through literature. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Crouch, A. (2008). Culture making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.

Kouzes, J. M., Posner, B. Z., & Kouzes, J. M. (2004). Christian Reflections on The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wright, N. T. (2010). After you believe: Why Christian Character Matters. New York, NY: HarperOne.

 

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Author: Jonathan Kelly

For university education, Jonathan Kelly studies liberal arts and sciences. In his free time, he studies history and ethics in science fiction.

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