Personality vs Character

Ok it’s not original, Steven Covey said it first, but we live in a world that venerates Personality over Character today.

God puts Character first though.

Character develops over time. It is forged through experience and often hard knocks. Our decisions shape our characters. Personality is like a mask. We put it on as we leave the house and take it off as we get home. My GP refers to it as “Eleanor Rigby syndrome”.

There are examples of the Character vs Personality through Scripture. King Saul had Personality. David had Character. Pharaoh had Personality, Moses had Character.

Having Character doesn’t mean doing everything right. It means owning our decisions and choices. Saul tried to blame everyone else. He blamed Samuel for arriving late. He blamed the people for pressuring him. He passed the buck as far as he could, and it cost him everything. He was a Personality leader. The people admired him. He was tall, well built and good looking. He went out with the Prophets and spoke out for God. He led God’s people in battle.

David committed adultery with Bathsheba, then had her husband killed to hide his behaviour. Adultery. Murder. Yet God describes him as a Man after God’s Heart. Why? Because when the Prophet Nathan comes to David and faces him with his sin, David acknowledges it and repents. He throws himself down before God and weeps over his actions. He owned his choices. He lived up to his Character.

Moses started with Personality. He, Like Paul later, became Character. He owned up to his past mistakes and led the Exodus, risking his own life going before Pharaoh to deliver God’s message. After living as a Prince he commits murder and flees to the desert, where he allows God to shape his Character. On his return to Egypt his Personality has been rebuilt into Godly Character by spending time with God. Pharaoh on the other hand is self-obsessed and determined to be the embodiment of his petty-minded deification in Egyptian culture. Even when he summons Moses and Aaron to ask them to pray to get the frogs removed from Egypt, his pride and Personality get in the way. The land of Egypt is overrun by frogs and he summons Moses to ask God to remove them. When Moses asks him ‘And Moses said to Pharaoh, “Accept the honor of saying when I shall intercede for you, for your servants, and for your people, to destroy the frogs from you and your houses, that they may remain in the river only.”’ his response is driven by his personality – “So he said, “Tomorrow.” And he said, “Let it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God”. (Exodus 8:9 & 10).

Today we have nations led by Presidents and Prime Ministers who are elected on massive majorities, but their behaviour is less than admirable. They are modern Pharaohs. When faced with their crimes they try to hide by distraction. Then they use what has become known as “spin” to cover up and misrepresent the facts to distract the population from . Sex is redefined by Bill Clinton. Marriage by Jacob Zuma. The concept of Character was eclipsed by Personality. Robert Mugabe started with noble principles. His personality got him support initially, but after so long in power his Character has come through and he turned one of the wealthiest nations in Africa into one of the poorest. It remains to be seen what will happen in Egypt.

Leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Desmond Tutu all displayed Character in their leadership. They led by example and acknowledged their mistakes. They lived their character day in and day out (and still do in some cases).

Personality is selfish, Character is selfless. A Character leader seeks to serve, a Personality leader promotes himself.

Jesus and the disciples lived by Character. Paul started as a Personality, then God knocked him off his donkey and opened his eyes to the importance of Character. He humbled himself and although a leader in the Jews he went and sat to let God build his Character.

He still wants to do the same for us.

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