If you're like me, you heard that phrase a lot when you were growing up. It was usually while you were complaining about some task you'd been assigned to perform for your dad, and after you'd asked a combination of why you had to do it and why you weren't going to get paid for doing it. He'd answer, "it's good for ya. Builds character." And you never really knew what that meant.
In my home, the VERY LAST thing that would happen was a repairman would be called. When ever something Went Wrong, my dad would look sideways at the situation, appliance, implement, or section of the yard, and consider what he knew, what he had available, and how to go about fixing or replacing whatever it was. My dad's phrase that let us know that a task was done to his satisfaction was, "that idn't goin' anywhere."
My dad always cautioned me, though, to be careful around garage doors. Specifically, adjusting the springs. He said, "they're so powerful, they can through a wrench right through your chest. Leave those to the pros." So I did. Earlier this year, both garage door springs broke, and the pros came out and replaced them. Prior to that, though, I'd installed the new gear mechanism in the door motor myself. I'd learned character and self-sufficiency from my dad. I looked at it sideways, decided I had the tools and ability, purchased the kit, and did it myself.
Last week, I hit the button on the wall, expecting my garage door to open as it always does. Instead, I heard a *spang* sound, and the suddenly loose end of the drive chain swung down to hit me sort of in the lips and beside my nose.
I looked at it sideways, decided I had the tools and ability, and went to the hardware store. I fixed it myself for $1.69 in nuts and washers.
When I was a kid, I really didn't appreciate doing things that weren't fun, no matter how much character I might be building. It's only later that these things have value. What I learned from my dad is that I can take care of things myself, that I can come up with solutions to problems and implement those solutions.
When we say about someone, "there goes a man of character," what we mean is that there is a man who has learned to do things he didn't necessarily want to do. There is a man who is willing to do things needed to get a job done. There is a man whose word can be taken as a contract. I'm learning more each day what it means to become a man of character.
Where do you learn to become a person of character? Sometimes, it's from doing crummy chores for no pay. You also learn by finding someone who has the attributes you want, and learning how that person thinks. You read the things they suggest, you attend the things they attend, and you pay attention to who they really are.
I haven't yet become the man I hope to be. Thanks to mentors in my life, I'm no longer the man I used to be. And thanks to my dad, I'm still building character.