Most parents agree that character or virtue formation is important, but it is rare to see parents who really understand God’s vision behind character formation. Usually, parents want their children to have a good character because they do not want their children to become bad, or harmful to other people. Which is not a bad thing. And others want their children to be good so they will have a good social standing. But why should they be good toward other people? And what does it mean to be good toward others? And how should we train them?
The seventh and the last goal of the “Portrait of a Graduate” at Veritas is that the student “honor their friends, humble themselves before others, and speak the truth in love.”
Honoring one another—Honoring, from a biblical perspective, is not merely a matter of giving due respect. It is a matter of acknowledging one another’s value so that we may enjoy God together more. In Ephesians 6:2, God commands that children honor our father and mother. But why? So that it may go well with you and that we may live long in the land. Honoring is acknowledging the value that the other person has within the body of Christ, so that ultimately we can be a blessings to one another, and enjoy God together as a body of Christ, as a team, as a community. So, at Veritas, when we train our boys to open doors for girls, or respond to adults with “yes, sir or ma’am,” we are training them to recognize their values in the body of Christ.
Humbling ourselves—In the process of building relationship, we inevitably become prideful at some point. Pride comes in a variety of forms. In his classic counseling book, When God is Small and People are Big, Ed Welch names different forms of “fear” or pride that people have, and these fears are often expressed as opposites. For example, inferiority complex and superiority complex are different forms of fear. They both ultimately stem from pride. Think of the older and the younger brothers in the parable of the Prodigal Son in Lk 15. So, a chief virtue that God calls us to bear as a result of receiving the grace of Christ is humility, to remember that we are not better than others, or worse than others. We are all sinners in need of God’s grace. We are called to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Eph 4:1-2). We ought not to measure ourselves against others. This attitude is requisite to solving any kind of problem we have with one another.
Speak the truth in Love—Finally, to grow in character, we need to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). Truth speaking is essential to reconciliation and love because our unity ultimately is forged by a common commitment to the truth. Speaking the truth in love first means being able to say truth about my own shortcoming: “I’m sorry.” Second, it means guiding others with God’s word so they are not tossed to and from by worldly way of thinking (Eph 4:14). Third, it means speaking to one another in a way that edifies them, build them up (Eph 4:29). At Veritas, in all situations where fellowship is broken or is at risk of being broken, we encourage all parties to humble themselves and speak the truth in love to restore the fellowship in the body of Christ.
In sum, the goal of character formation is enjoying God together, and the method is humbling ourselves and relying on God’s truth to reconcile us and bring us together closer to God. It is radically a God-centered and community-centered approach to character formation. As the story of the rich young man in Mt 19:16-22 teaches us, character or virtue is not formed by simply doing good deeds.