Over the last couple of weeks we have begun to unpack the meaning of this year’s theme: “Radical: Living a Life of Conviction.” When people were asked what a “life of conviction” means, the three words most often used were commitment, character, and integrity. These three words, though, are only powerful when someone chooses to live by them. They become more than words when they define for someone how to live. Last week we looked at what the word commitment means in regard to conviction and defined it as “persistence with a purpose.”
The second action word we will use to help us define “living a life of conviction” is character. The first thing to point out is that when we say a person is someone of “character,” we are leaving out an assumptive word. The word we often leave out is “good.” This is important because someone can have either a good or bad character. What we are referring to when we say character is simply “a set of behavior traits that define what sort of person an individual is.” So when we say that “she is a person of character,” we are saying that she is someone whose behavior is good or right.
One of my favorite definitions of what character means is “character is who you are when no one is looking.” Inherent in that definition is the idea that character is more than just your outward behavior. The fact of the matter is we sometimes make choices and take action because of outside pressures and not internal values. If someone chooses to do the right thing and knows that no one else will find out, the guiding factor is internal values — his or her character.
So the next time “no one is looking,” the real issue is not whether you will get away with it, but instead what is this revealing to you about yourself and about your character? In those situations if you choose to do the right thing you are truly “living a life of conviction” and that, in today’s world, will make you a “radical.”