What makes us behave the way we do? Part of what defines us as individuals is inborn. These Characteristic Traits or Inclinations, largely genetic, are passed on to us by our parents; hair and eye color, body size and expressive abilities to name but a few. Patience, math skills (or the lack thereof), a quick temper or an easy laugh, the ability to listen and comprehend may all be tendencies we share with them to some degree - but they don't totally dictate who we are and how we react.

Our Minds or Intelligence, again some of which we acquire at birth; influences our capacity to learn and our ability to retain what we are exposed to. However, much depends on what we intentionally study and introduce ourselves to as well.

Our interaction with others is expressed through our Soul, Spirit and Conscience, that which inherently knows in a general sense what is right and wrong. But much of our attitude toward others depends on how we develop it and the examples we choose to emulate. A willingness to sacrifice personal goals and gratification for the greater good of society will motivate us to do more than we ordinarily would, but it should more importantly be an expression of what God would have us be.

The Holy Spirit, when allowed, guides and heightens our conscience. As we repent and are baptized we receive him in to ourselves (Acts 2:38), he becoming our guarantor of eternal life (Ephesians 1:14). What he is able to accomplish in our lives depends on how much we "feed" on the Word; gaining strength, knowledge and ability through his leading into a greater understanding of it. (John 14:26 - see also the warning of Ephesians 4:30 and 1 Thessalonians 5:19)

Character, that which we develop or become as a result of all these plus a purposeful effort to become something more. An identifying mark, a distinctive trait or quality, a pattern of behavior; demonstrating moral strength, self-discipline and a responsible lifestyle as a result of a moral code. It is the flavor of our being, the substance of our personality; being developed intentionally or otherwise by what we expose ourselves to and participate in.

The actions of a handful of girls from Glenbrook North High School, (along with the more passive participation of several male "cheerleaders" and parents) really emphasize this point. They seemingly lost any concept of responsible behavior in an outburst of gang violence. Gathered for an unsanctioned powder-puff flag football game pitting seniors against juniors, these "young ladies" commenced to pummel the younger girls with their fists, feet and coolers, smearing paint, animal intestines and feces in their faces and mouths. Five girls were treated at the hospital; one with stitches to her head and another with a broken ankle. Incidentally, two adults have been charged with supplying alcohol, which certainly contributed to the ensuing melee, while four boys along with the offending girls were suspended from school for their video-captured participation.

The girls, less then contrite, have commented that things just got a little out of control but really now - no one was killed! Several parents are filing lawsuits against the school for its disciplinary suspensions, questioning it's authority to intervene in an after-school activity. The rest of us are left to wonder - 'What were they thinking?'

Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker writes, "By their interference with the school's attempt at discipline, the parents have clarified much of what has gone wrong in these kids' lives. Without consequences, actions have no meaning and therefore no moral relevancy. One thing is as good as another; lies are as good as truth. Good and bad, wassup w'dat?" She concludes with, "The consequence may be that some of the Glenbrook girls lose their place in the college of their choice. Objectively, that won't ruin their life, will it? Learning from parents that lying about or denying what needs fixing, on the other hand, just might. It really is a matter of principle." Or, I would add, character; part of which is the ability to accept responsibility for our actions. (Good and Bad) Paul warns, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:7,8) So where does Christian character come from? By, "...not (conforming) any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Why? So that, "...you will be able to test and approve (know) what God's will is -" (Romans 12:1, 2)

It all starts at Exodus 20; the Ten Commandments of God, successfully fulfilled in the 11th command of "Love one another." (John 13:34) The essence of both Testaments being, Love God first and foremost - love your neighbors as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-40 and Mark 12:30, 31) When we do, hungering and thirsting for the righteousness of God, craving it as "food" or sustenance for our being, we are promised a ful-"filling" blessing and the ability to live as he directs. (Matthew 5:6)

Seek first his kingdom, implementing the righteous (right) living of God into our lives. Do to others - first - what you would have them do to you, regardless of their response or the consequences. (Matthew 6:33 and 7:12)

Not merely refraining from doing evil, we are to be actively involved in doing good; sin not judged as such only when we do bad, but in our not doing the good we know we should - yet don't. (James 4:17) Doing "nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, ... Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others." (Philippians 2:3 and 1 Corinthians 10:24)

In an effort to foster understanding and respect, we must be willing to deny ourselves the freedom to speak and act solely for our own benefit; but never-ever-shirk our responsibility as Christians to share the gospel in boldness and truth. "Always be prepared to give an answer... with gentleness and respect." In "...great patience and careful instruction." (1 Peter 3:15 and 2 Timothy 4:2) We are to be in the world but not of it, remembering Paul's warning that, "Bad company corrupts good character." (1 Corinthians 15:33) Our best safeguard against compromising our principles being in developing the same attitude or mind of Christ Jesus, loving and self-sacrificing while holding firm to a cause that was bigger than personal accomplishment and safety. (Philippians 2:5-11) What a code to live by!

What kind of character are you?