Dr Simon’s series continues with the seventh of ‘ten commandments’ of character development: strive to develop soundness and rightness of will.
I’ve been posting a series of articles on what I call the “ten commandments” of sound character development. A commandment is a call to action. One cannot command a feeling, a belief, or an attitude. One can only command an action. And there are some very important actions a person must take in order to develop strength and integrity of character. I discuss several of the most important of these in my soon to be released book, Character Disturbance [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK](?).
Prior posts have addressed the need we all have to avoid a sense of entitlement by striving to be grateful for all we’ve been given; the importance of developing a healthy and balanced sense of self-worth; and the need to gain mastery over our natural urge to seek pleasure and consciously subordinate this most basic instinct to the cause of life itself.
My last post dealt with the need to gain mastery over our impulses and especially to think before we act. But gaining a healthy mastery over one’s impulses can only occur when a person has developed both strength and rightness of will.
Many classical models of psychology have inadvertently cast human beings and their behavior as merely products of their environments, constitutional predispositions, history of trauma, intellectual ability, etc. But man is unique among all creatures in his capacity for choice. And a variety of powerful experiences has taught me clearly that a person’s will is capable of being nurtured, strengthened, and correctly directed. Merely having the ability to choose is not sufficient for becoming a person of sound character. One must choose wisely, rightly, and with a fair degree of consistency to possess integrity of character. One must exercise will regularly to give it strength. But that will must also be guided by sound principle. As I mention in my upcoming book:
Perseverance, patience and endurance are not really virtues in themselves. A man intent on robbing a large bank may spend hours or days meticulously planning and executing his caper as well as waiting for the best time to strike. And some criminals remain of solid resolve in their manner of dealing with life no matter how many incarcerations or life losses they’ve experienced. Further, daring is not the same as courage or forbearance. Nor is obstinacy the same as strength of will. But it is imperative that you develop both soundness and rightness of purpose with respect to your will. Willfulness in the service of justice, righteousness, and the common good is indeed a virtue. To accept moral and social obligation, to work hard for the benefit of all, to persevere in noble endeavors despite obstacles, to pursue justice, and live righteously (i.e., to love), are indeed the most noble ways to exercised your will. So, pledge yourself to principled living and stay the course. Faith in something bigger than you really helps. And faith and commitment are the antidotes to all fear.
Most of the character-disordered individuals I’ve counseled over the years didn’t lack integrity of character because they didn’t believe in themselves (even though they might have been told that by well-meaning but off-target counselors). What they didn’t believe in was something bigger than themselves. Once they did (with good therapy), they faced the even bigger challenge of surrendering their wills to that higher purpose (as emphasized in one of the “12 steps” of Alcoholics Anonymous). But I’ve seen many a life change for the better once a person made the decision to strengthen and discipline the human animal’s most distinctive characteristic besides intelligence — his will.
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