Building Character
by Mike Windley on August 26th, 2014

I think it was all the way back in my college days that I first read Bill Hybel’s book on the topic of character. Hybels defined character the way the titled his book, “Who You Are (When No One's Looking).” Reputation is what we have when we are in the spotlight, when others can see us. We can have a great reputation, but terrible character. Character is truly formed by the choices we make that shape who we are and who we are becoming.
By far, one of my favorite principles from Hybels book on forming character was that of “advanced decision making.” The idea with advanced decision making to, well, to decide in advance what you’re going to do in a given situation. And while we could never predict and prepare for all the situations we will find ourselves in, we can easily foresee so many choice opportunities and prepare in advance for what we will do.
For example, while I was in college, I knew I had the freedom and responsibility to either make it to class or not to make it to class. I knew that my final grade would likely be impacted by my attendance record. So, I decided in advance of class days, that no matter how tired I was, how easy the class might be, no matter what other social engagements might otherwise attract me, I was going to class. That way, when the alarm went off early on Monday morning to get me up for my 8am class, it was a question of whether I would get up or not. It had already been decided. Had I not made the advance decision to get up and get to class, I likely would have made a poor decision and stayed in bed.
This principle of advanced decision making is applied so easily and in so many areas of life, both sacred and secular. Who gets the first ten percent of my pay check every month? God. It’s been decided. I don’t wait to see how much is leftover and then give back to God. I know God has taught me through His Word to tithe so I’ve decided in advance to give back to Him the first ten percent.
When I go on vacation with my family, are we going to stay in the habit of worshipping God on Sunday mornings? Absolutely. We’ve decided in advance that worship is our priority and, not only do we yearn to worship, but we also want to model for our kids what’s most important in our lives.
Of course, I could go on. Advance decision making applies in so many areas. Dating. Diet. Exercise. Prayer. Being a part of a Bridge group. How fast I drive. Wearing a seatbelt. Deciding in advance what I will or won’t do enables me to make the best decisions in any given situation. And builds character.  A good reputation is nice to have. But character is what really matters. And I am a product of my choices. Let’s decide in advance to be people growing in character.

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