Wednesday, July 15, 2015
The Charleston Shootings And The Unstoppable Power Of Character
Is it fair to say that more and more people today use tragedies as a platform to present their own thoughts and opinions? Fair or not, it's true. Following the tragic shooting in Charleston, SC, social media was packed with words of encouragement, words of hate, and everything in between. After our carefully worded posts cycled through and our emotions cooled, we moved on. The families of those lost, however, remained in the dark mists of their grief. Thousands of voices and sensationalist news reports almost obscured the real story. Many of the families forgave the murderer.
They forgave him.
That sort of courage and character is overwhelmingly beautiful, especially in a world that seems to increasingly lack both courage and character. How did they do it? Maybe even more importantly, how can we do it? How can we manifest such character in our own times of crisis? How can we offer hope and forgiveness rather than empty opinion and posturing?
How did the family members of those killed in Charleston forgive the person who had caused them such misery? The answer it seems is that they had already been forgiving for a very long time. Forgiveness was a skill they had already developed and employed countless times before.
There's a story from the Bible about a young man named Daniel who had been taken from his home after his country had been conquered by a foreign army. The habit of the Babylonian leaders at that time was to take the best and the brightest from each nation they conquered and bring them home to make their own nation stronger. Daniel was one of those best and brightest. Daniel's life in Babylon was marked with trials and challenges. During one such challenge we read that Daniel, "went to his house where he had windows in the upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously." (Daniel 6:10). Daniel acted according to what he believed most valuable even when it threatened to cost him his life. How? He was simply doing what he had already formed a habit of doing. He prayed. Families in Charleston forgave.
Truly noble actions in the face of tragedy or danger can only come as a result of deeply formed character. In the words of Aristotle, "we are what we repeatedly do". Character is a habit worked out over time. Character is what we need most. Opinions change. Our culture will continue to morph from one thing to another, but deeply rooted character will always give hope and point to something bigger and more beautiful. Those courageous families in Charleston have character. May God give us each the drive and desire to form character of our own.
Photo Courtesy of Death To Stock Photo
Bible passage is from the English Standard Version