Testing Resolve Strengthens Character

Testing Our Resolve

We face many tests every day. Some are tests of our resolve and will to be better persons. But these tests are golden opportunities for us to make important life course corrections and strengthen our resolve. They’re opportunities to forge character.

Traditionally, we annually reaffirm our resolve about important things at the beginning of each year. But we are so much better at making “New Year’s resolutions” than keeping them. Why do we bother? Is it just that we need to test our willpower? I think it’s a bit more than this. It has something to do with the need we all have for hope – hope that we can really change. And hope that with resolve, we can maintain positive changes.

The Price of Indulgence

Reliable data show that in the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, most of us over-indulge on many fronts. We spend more time being couch potatoes. We eat too much food and partake of too many snacks and desserts.Many of us spend more money than we really need to. And, of course, some of us drink too much. And we generally pay a pretty hefty price for all this excess. The consequences of our indulgence add up fast and hit us hard. So we become more motivated than we might be at other times to take a long, hard look at some of our ways and resolve to change them.

Dealing with Weakness and Failure

Many people make a good start on their resolutions but become dejected a few weeks later. Generally, by mid-February, we’ve broken the vows we made on January 1st at least once. We become victims of the motivational paradox of resolution-making. Our motivation to change peaks in the midst of paying the consequences of irresponsible behavior. So it’s natural for that motivation to wane when we’ve actually begun to behave ourselves a little better.

Keeping resolutions isn’t difficult just because the pains of pre-New Year’s behavior have faded by February. It’s also because we don’t immediately realize the benefits of our efforts. It takes months of faithful work to achieve the goals we set and reap the anticipated rewards, When these fail to fully materialize and in relatively short order, we can lose both interest and motivation. Then, we slip back into old ways. Maintaining resolve in anything takes commitment. Such commitment is born of deep, abiding, unwavering and enduring love. That kind of love must be cultivated. And it has to woven into the very fabric of our character.

Character and Mental Health

From the late 70s through most of the 80s, professionals aligned with the “medical model” pushed the notion that most emotional, behavioral, and psychological problems stemmed from chemical imbalances in the brain. Advancing this perspective did a lot to remove the stigma often associated with some mental disorders. And many of these disorders had been unfairly viewed merely as manifestations of weak or poor character. But the perspective has its downside. We’ve made great strides in the treatment of certain brain diseases, as is so often the case, we went too far in discounting the importance of character and its role in both promoting and maintaining sound emotional and behavioral health.

In many ways, character is like a psychological immune system. Stressful things happen to all of us, but when you have a rightly developed will, you can more readily summon the internal resources to weather the storms of life. And when sound guiding principles lie at the heart of your character, many times the slings and arrows of life only further develop and strengthen your character and willpower.

Resolve to Make Character Matter Again

Many know what a nightmare dealing with or being in a relationship with a disturbed or disordered character can be. And perhaps there’s never been a time in our history where character has mattered as much. So, I make the same resolution every year: to do all I can to help make character “cool” again, and to make it matter. I reaffirm to not only talk about it but also “talk up” the concept of character development. Once it’s more “fashionable” to focus on character building, we as a society might encourage, recognize, value, and reward it more. I’ll be addressing this on my blog and YouTube, and in my speaking engagements, books and other writings, and various other professional enterprises. And I’ll have much more to say about my activities at the start of the new year.

Announcements

Character Matters will not be a live broadcast this Sunday, November 6, 2016, so no calls can be taken. Nor will it be live next week. I’ll be back live Sunday Nov 20. And we’ll be talking about this very topic, among others.

I’m proud to announce the recent release of the new Brazilian edition of In Sheep’s Clothing. Look for an announcement soon about a pending Chinese edition. Happily, Character Disturbance, How Did We End Up Here, and The Judas Syndrome have also been growing in popularity. I’m both humbled and grateful for such longstanding and growing support for all my work.

Next week’s speaking engagements take me to Silver Spring, MD and Richmond, VA.

46 thoughts on “Testing Resolve Strengthens Character

  1. I am planning to share this blog post with my English students to apply it to education and emphasize that literacy building is interconnected with character building. To develop literacy, students have to spend less time on superficial internet browsing and more time on reading books, keeping a reading journal, etc. However, this process is not efficient, and since progress is slow, many do not develop a love for in-depth reading. With “months [and years] of faithful work,” however, people can indeed develop a “deep, abiding, unwavering and enduring love” for literacy that will be “woven into the very fabric of [their] character.” I think this is also relevant to Elias Aboujaoude’s insightful discussion of building an “inner library” in Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality. I feel that literacy can be helpful for resisting manipulative personalities because reading about a character such as Shakespeare’s Iago, for example, can make it easier to detect manipulative strategies in real life.

    1. You have to have stoicism when dealing with DC’s

      The Brook – by Alfred Lord Tennyson

      I come from haunts of coot and hern,
      I make a sudden sally
      And sparkle out among the fern,
      To bicker down a valley.

      By thirty hills I hurry down,
      Or slip between the ridges,
      By twenty thorpes, a little town,
      And half a hundred bridges.

      Till last by Philip’s farm I flow
      To join the brimming river,
      For men may come and men may go,
      But I go on for ever.

      I chatter over stony ways,
      In little sharps and trebles,
      I bubble into eddying bays,
      I babble on the pebbles.

      With many a curve my banks I fret
      By many a field and fallow,
      And many a fairy foreland set
      With willow-weed and mallow.

      I chatter, chatter, as I flow
      To join the brimming river,
      For men may come and men may go,
      But I go on for ever.

      I wind about, and in and out,
      With here a blossom sailing,
      And here and there a lusty trout,
      And here and there a grayling,

      And here and there a foamy flake
      Upon me, as I travel
      With many a silvery waterbreak
      Above the golden gravel,

      And draw them all along, and flow
      To join the brimming river
      For men may come and men may go,
      But I go on for ever.

      I steal by lawns and grassy plots,
      I slide by hazel covers;
      I move the sweet forget-me-nots
      That grow for happy lovers.

      I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance,
      Among my skimming swallows;
      I make the netted sunbeam dance
      Against my sandy shallows.

      I murmur under moon and stars
      In brambly wildernesses;
      I linger by my shingly bars;
      I loiter round my cresses;

      And out again I curve and flow
      To join the brimming river,
      For men may come and men may go,
      But I go on for ever.

    2. GBS,
      There is a fine line here, as this blog is for victims of abuse by Character Disordered individuals. Literacy as such can make an already manipulative personality all the wiser. I will agree in Dr. Simons up-coming new book to be released soon, regarding all these Topics is a great program to teach the tenets of character, humility being only a part of the whole.

      Please tread lightly as many of us have been hurt deeply by the CD. I hope that your use of literacy also includes the damage that the selfish self-centered individual knowingly causes to unsuspecting decent people. I would suggest you read Dr. Simons other works as a prelude to what you feel your English literacy will add to your students knowledge banks.

      Dealing with CD individuals goes far beyond the realm of English literacy. As a teacher of literacy and I am curious why so many of the classics have been taken out of required reading? Some that were of great benefit such as Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, the Grapes of Wrath and Moby Dick to name just a few I read for English Lit…

      1. I agree that literacy without moral values can be used as a tool for power and manipulation, and unfortunately there are many people who study literature without working on developing their moral character. However, I also feel that literature and literacy can be a powerful source of comfort for victims because while disturbed characters try to create a distorted reality, literature can reminds us of what is possible and beautiful in human nature. For some disturbed characters, life is all about power. When the victim reads literature, s/he can be reminded that there is much, much more inherent value to life than what the disturbed character tries to create. Literature also gives us memorable depictions of manipulators that may help to identify them in real life. For example, after reading Richard III’s opening soliloquy, we may be less likely to feel pity for a manipulator. Regarding your question about curriculum revision: I think it is a loss that students are not required to read many of the classics that they were required to read in the past. Perhaps educators fear that students would not enjoy them, or wrongly feel that they are not relevant.

        1. GBS,
          If I may ask in what age are your students and what type of format do you intend to present?

          Other great writers that touch on Humility and Simplicity are
          Henry Thoreau: Waldon Pond and Life in the Woods
          Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance
          Dr. Scott Peck: The Road Less Traveled
          Dr. Scott Peck: People of the Lie
          The Road Less Traveled is one of the best books I have ever read on developing Humility, Discipline and courage, it also talks about love.

          The ultimate book with all the answers is the Bible. There is nothing that is not addressed in the development of faith, love, hope, charity, humility, pride, you name it the answer is there.

          Thank you for discussing this with me and it also provides more information for the posters here. I think in all due respect they should also know your intent of introducing our writings.

          1. Hi BTOV, I teach university undergraduates, and my intent in posting is that I feel that there can be a useful connection between character building/defense against manipulation and building a rich “inner library” (to use Elias Aboujaoude’s term) of literature. This is something that I bring up in my classes when applicable, and I also hope to write about it some day. Thanks for the reading recommendations. I agree that the Bible has many great parts that are helpful to character development, but for me it does not have “all the answers.” I believe in God as a supreme entity that created the universe, but that the Bible is the work of human beings (often very insightful human beings). One verse that comes to mind in relation to the election is Exodus 3:11: “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?'”–what a contrast to today’s overconfident, power-hungry politicians. I also love Dr. Simon’s discussion of the test for identifying manipulators who hurt you and still manage to appear good: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7: 15-16).

      2. I welcome the input and comments of GBS for broadening the discussions on this blog. I did not read anything questionable in a bad sense in her/his comments.

        I could not find where it says that Dr. Simon is writing this blog solely for the victims of abuse. I have been used and manipulated by a character disordered person, but I do not identify myself as a victim. I prefer to direct my energy to examining my own behaviours and character traits, and working on myself. I was ignorant at the time about CD people. I am no longer ignorant thanks to Dr. Simon and commentators sharing their knowledge and experience here.

        It is good, imo, to examine things from different points of views.
        I, like others who may silently participate in this blog, am not a Christian. The Bible is a worthy piece of literature, but so are many other books, and not just from the English language world.

        1. Thanks, Anne. I also prefer to direct my energy to self-improvement (combined with an awareness that one has to be careful of people who are not dedicated to self-improvement and ethical behavior). I agree that the non-English tradition has much to offer to the study of literature and character development. It is unfortunate that the “English major” excludes the valuable works that could have been studied in translation.

    3. Getting back to GBS’s original topic, as I understood it, that literacy helps us build character and understand the character of others (both the good and the bad), I have to say that I agree. I read alot of everything, from a very young age, and it definitely influenced my values and perspective. I am very grateful to be literate. It’s helped me immensely in my life.

      From a young age, I knew the stories of the New Testament and Aesop’s Fables, and these would clash against how I observed religious people behaving. With my child’s mind I could not have expressed the contradictions I observed, but I certainly felt something was not in tune: people weren’t practising what they were preaching, or what was being preached at us.

      Even today, I mostly enjoy novels about people’s character and psychology, the situations and dilemnas they are faced with, the choices and decisions they make, and the consequences. Subconsciously and consciously, I am sure what I have read has influenced my decisions, beliefs and values in life.

      1. Anne’s comment resonates with me. I think that noticing contradictions and discrepancies between what should be and what is is important for character improvement (it can also be the starting point of scientific discovery). Reading literature can promote emotional attachment, highlight free choice and remind us that there is much more to life than the distortions that disturbed characters can create.

      2. Anne, GBS,

        Aesop’s Fables and likes (Panctantra, Arabian Nights, etc) are not entirely idealistic moral stories. These are more like practical wisdom stories. These stories, while they looks simple animal stories, contain morals and worldy wisdom that is suitable for older children.
        In fact, after understanding the nature of covert-aggressive people thanks to this blog and books, some of those fables now make more sense to me, when I am well into middle age!

        Hint GBS. Hint. Try these fables. Very light weight stories with conflicting moral insights.

  2. Joey,
    Absolutely, true. Can I ask how old you were when you started reading poetry. Many may not realize it but there is so much being said in these words. Many times I have to read a poem over and over the message is so profound. I loved Masterpiece Theater especially when Allister DeCook was the presenter. I Claudius and Portrait of a Marriage were a few of my favorite, Oliver Twist too. So many good ones and I never saw them repeated either. Loved Hyacinth too.
    Thank you and ((((Hugs))))

      1. Joey,
        Your poems that you post are just perfect and so appropriate for our conversations. Many of them I have printed off. I love poetry too, it’s like listening to the symphony but in a word format. Four years old, your amazing.

    1. Humility is the missing virtue in much of our expressions today. Our nature and our culture tell us that we must become great and respected by our others. We are taught the true value is in recognizing us and seeing how awesome we are, our accomplishments “the Selfie and Facebook world.” Rather than to do unto others as we would have them do to us and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Thanks for the post GBS, I enjoyed watching it.

  3. GBS

    I can understand how reading the chapters of Dr Simon’s books will give insight of character building to your students. However , I do not grasp how bloggers’ comments will give insight on the topic, since we are individuals doing our best to cope with the CDs in our life.
    Frankly, I don’t want to be studied by anyone. I’m not silent. I put it out there, and the responses I get from other bloggers help me get through my turmoil.
    I don t wish to partake in a study, but by voluntarily blogging I realize I’m making myself vulnerable, which is a trait that got me on this situation with the CD in the first place.
    I’m being honest, I don’t feel comfortable blogging here now.

    1. We are not blogging on here. We are commentators on Dr. Simon’s blog. I believe GBS’s intention is to share Dr. Simon’s words, not ours.

        1. Everything we write in the comments here, as well as Dr. Simon’s blog postings on this web page, are in the public domain and readable by anyone, at anytime, with internet and a device to connect to it. This place we are in (in a virtual sense) is *not* a private, or even semi-private, chat room.

          1. Anne,

            Of course I realize this nor any other blog is private or semi private. And I stand corrected, I’m not a “blogger”, but a “commentator” or “poster” of Dr. Simon’s blog.

    2. I would not worry to much Lucy. Dr Simon polices this site very well. I trust him
      to protect us as much as he is able to. We have had the Grime element here before and it has been dealt with very quickly.

      Joey

      1. Joey,
        I don’t want to be studied or judged or belittled. This is not the place for that. I need some clarity on this matter.

        1. Neither do I. But If you are concerned E-mail Dr Simon. The facility is at the top of this page.
          I Know that this site is policed by his staff. He is very good

  4. The ONLY thing I meant in my comment is that I was thinking of sharing Dr. Simon’s article on resolve with my students to encourage them in their journey of building literacy. I have absolutely no intention, and never had any intention, of discussing any of the readers’ comments with my students. I see much usefulness in Dr. Simon’s writing to the study of writing and literature, both for the analysis of literary character (for example Satan, Iago and Richard III as manipulators)and for literacy building (in the age of excessive Internet use, it is a constant struggle for many students, and for me as well, to develop the self-discipline to engage in in-depth reading and analysis instead of superficial browsing, and I find Dr. Simon’s directions for character-building inspirational). In light of the discomfort and misunderstanding that my comment has generated, however, I have decided not to share Dr. Simon’s article with my students.

      1. GBS,
        I think from what you explained your intentions are good. Perhaps, you could introduce the pertinent points and at the same time protect the amenity of the posters on this site. I believe Dr. Simons intent is to teach us character building values and in return we teach others in kind.

        1. Yes, if I mention Dr. Simon’s work to my students, I will not mention the comments on this site (and in light of the discomfort I will not mention to them Dr. Simon’s article that generated this discussion).

          1. GBS,
            I think you can integrate Dr. Simons teaching with your literature and at the same time respect our so called privacy. I believe your intent is of goodwill to help change hearts and at the same time teach values and character relating to works of liturature. I would not shut the door completely on this, its how you present it where it would benefit everyone.

  5. Thanks, BTOV. Yes, my interest is to bring into dialogue the study of literature and literacy with character development, and if I mention Dr. Simon’s work to my student (for their own enrichment, not for formal study) I will not direct them to read the comments on his blog.

    1. GBS,
      Likewise, thank you, if there is anything we can help you with in your endeavors please feel free to ask. Also, for our own knowledge would you mind sharing how you are presenting this information to your students. It could be a useful tool for us to work with family members, loved ones and others to help them to develop character possibly through your approach.

      Welcome GBS

      1. Thanks for your kind offer, BTOV. I am hoping to write more systematically about these subjects in the future and would welcome any feedback then. For now, I try to bring the study of manipulation and character development into my teaching of literature and essay writing when it is relevant. I have become increasingly convinced of the need to speak with students about manipulation and character building for two reasons (1) my own growing awareness of how important it is to defend oneself against the confusion, hurt and self-doubt that manipulators can create (2) My surprise at how some people respond to manipulative literary characters with admiration. For example, I have read many responses to Satan in Paradise Lost that seem genuinely appreciative of him instead of analyzing him as a manipulator. Milton did, of course, depict Satan heroically, modeling him after the warriors of the Iliad, but I believe that the readers must be able to see through the false heroism and recognize him as a manipulator. When I first taught Paradise Lost, I was quite wishy washy about labeling Satan because I wanted the students to think for themselves, but when I realized how widespread the admiration for his character was I started providing my students with more direction to understand why they must see through his manipulations. Here are two examples of how Dr. Simon’s work can guide literary character analysis:
        (1) The biblical guideline of “you will know them by their fruit” and judging actions, not intentions applies brilliantly to Satan who promises victory and glory but delivers destruction. Satan presents himself as a hero with “unconquerable will” “who durst defy the omnipotent [God] to arms” and possesses the “courage never to submit or yield.” While this rhetoric sounds inspiring, Dr. Simon’s work is an important reminder that submitting to socially desirable values if very important.
        (2) Dr. Simon’s critique of traditional psychology is important for literary criticism as well because we often fall into the trap of analyzing the bad behaviour of literary characters in terms of victimhood instead of desire to have power and win. Satan would like us to believe that his bad behaviour is the result of being subjugated to a dictatorial God who “holds the tyranny of heaven.” Satan, however, is a false victim (and even if he were a true victim, this does not justify his victimization of others).
        Close reading of literary texts can be helpful for the study of manipulation because it puts on the page the kind of contradictions and discrepancies that we should be paying attention to in daily life (as Anne observed). For example, Satan says: “To reign is worth ambition though in hell:/Better to reign in hell than serve in Heaven.” While this sounds very inspiring, the readers (as other critics have noted) are expected to recognize this bravado as a distortion of what Achilles says when he is in the underworld after having died in Troy: “By god, I’d rather slave on earth for another man/Some dirt-poor farmer who scrapes to keep alive/Than rule down here over all the breathless dead.” In other words, being in hell cannot be rationalized as “great” and Satan is doing a horrible disservice to his followers. Another contradiction from Shakespeare’s Richard III that can be instructive about manipulators: Richard manages to arouse our pity in the opening soliloquy when he says that he must be evil because he is disabled and his looks exclude him from the realm of love and courtship (no one will ever want to be with him). Shortly after, however, he goes on to successfully and confidently seduce Lady Anne, showing us quite clearly that he is not motivated by deep hurt and lack of confidence but by an obsessive desire to win and control.

  6. GBS,
    I can see where you are going with this and I think it a brilliant way to get our younger ones to see the dangers of not observing the whole. I have not read the book on Satan you refer too. I have always been a reader so what you are doing is of interest to me. Its similar to the story of Clarissa and how she was manipulated and deceived.

    I encourage you to read Dr. Simons others books too. There is much more than one being a manipulator and you will find this in the books. I would encourage you also to read the archives and the sad but true stories of the destruction the CD cause other human beings.

    I will be very interested in how you approach this with your students and if you can arouse empathy for their fellow man, I admire your courage to broach the subject in such a manner as I don’t believe most teachers are interested in presenting the values of integrity and character to their students not does the system encourage it.

    Thank you for the well thought out and thorough answer. I will have to write down the name of the books you have referred to. I absolutely love books and I hope you are successful in bringing out that yearning to read and understand literature as a true work of art. I would be most appreciative if you could share some of the titles that left a profound message for you.

    God bless you inyour forth coming endeavors.

    1. Thanks, Andy, for recommending the fables. BTOV,
      are you referring to Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa?
      I think it powerfully depicts the misery that disturbed characters can cause. Thanks for your encouraging comments and for asking for impactful titles. Shakespeare and John Milton (author or Paradise Lost) are two of my favorite authors when it comes to character analysis and improvement (especially Othello, Hamlet, Titus Andronicus, Macbeth and Richard 3).

  7. GBS,
    If you don’t mind my asking are you a male or female? Yes, I am speaking of that book, I read it in the 8th grade. For a million words I have to say the scoundrel or rake Robert Lovelace and what he would do next kept my interest. I have not read Paradise Lost and look forward to reading it. I loved English Lit, I couldn’t get enough of it. When I was 16 I read the Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn one summer.

    I commend you for trying to get this generation interested in reading rather than watching You tubes. If I saw a movie I enjoyed I got the book. I was taken to see Dr. Zhivago at a early age of 10 my parents thought it wasn’t appropriate for me and threw it out and I snuck it out of the garbage and read it anyway.

    1. GBS,
      There seems to be several books by Miltons Lost Paradise, even a series. Would you mind recommending which ones to read.
      Thank you

      1. John Milton’s Paradise Lost is an epic poem divided into twelve books, and I think it is best to read all books to fully enjoy the poem.

    2. GBS,
      I meant no disrespect in asking you your gender, I should had been more clear in my reason for asking. I am a woman and read a genre of reading material which surprises many. Whereas, in speaking with males they seem to be interested in more male oriented material, likewise with most females. You seemed open to many categories and I was asking for that reason.

      I think the most profound work I have read thus far is by:
      Dr. Victor Frankl, Mans Search for Meaning.
      May I ask you yours?
      Many blessings and Thank you

  8. BTOV, I am also a woman. Thanks for the reference to Frankl’s book. I have not read it, but I find the genre of concentration-camp writing to which it belongs important in reminding us of how crucial it is to be vigilant in preventing character-disturbbed individuals from gaining excessive power–in politics and in inter-personal relationships. I loved Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz and Roberto Benigni film “Life is Beautiful” (the film is not a realistic depiction of the Holocaust, but I think it is wonderfully effective in asserting, in the face of cruelty, healthy character values such as emotional attachment and concern for the wellbeing of others). I do not have a single book that I found most profound, but I love discovering books with insightful messages and appreciate your recommendations.

    1. GBS,
      Thank you for your response. I am going to have to get my notebook out and write down all these titles. I think you will enjoy Dr. Frankl’s book and it is relatively a fast read although just an amazing book of one mans strength and courage under the most inhumane conditions possible to inspire others.

      When I have felt weighted down with life struggles and what I endured at the hands of CD individuals in my life, remembering what Dr. Frankl went through along with all the other victims, encourages me to be a better person and to fight the good fight.

      I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts on this book after you read it. You may find some of the answers you are looking for on this blog in Dr. Frankls book.

      I hope you continue to post as I think we all will benefit from your input on Dr. Simons blog. I appreciate your concern and effort to reach out and care enough to want to make this a better world. Also, what you may learn will help you to be better equipped to deal with the truly CD who could very well be one of your students.

  9. I am grateful for the recommendation of Dr. Frankl’s book, and I will plan to read it (but I apologize that I won’t read it right away). I think it is so important to remember what the victims of the Nazis went through because their experience is a powerful reminder to fight for good to prevail over cruelty. Hitler, of course, was a master manipulator who was quite skilled at times at presenting himself as a victim.

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