He was on his way to the top. World leaders flew him on private jets to consult with him even though he was the leader of a non-profit. His gifts seemed unending. A famous speaker once remarked that this leader had received ten times the gifting of the average non-profit leader. His speaking ability was a marvel, and thousands flocked to hear him speak.
Then it all went wrong. Our church was connected to a network he had started, and things were going well. Then came a phone call to me in an airport telling me that a moral failure this leader struggled with had gone public. I argued to myself that it couldn’t be true, but it was. Over the next few months, it all came crashing down. So great was his fall that even the national news covered it.
It would not be such a big deal if this was a rare occurrence. Unfortunately, it is not. Something similar happened to a governor who was very effective, but had been involved in an extramarital affair that went public. We could probably all name a few instances where financial, moral, or character failures caused someone with remarkable gifts and abilities to crash and burn before they were able to reach their perceived potential.
There are several reasons why charisma and gifting seem to be more important than character and integrity. People notice charisma. It lifts people above the crowd and makes them stand out. People with charisma can do things others cannot.
Character, on the other hand, seems boring. Doing the right thing day in and day out is not as exciting as a public persona or big event. The result of this is that the gifting is eventually stunted if it is not accompanied by sufficient character development.
Charisma without character exposes you to many temptations involving those who are enamored with your gift. The opposite sex is more available, even those who are already married. Financial rewards are usually greater, and sometimes come by questionable methods.
Some highly gifted people even assume that the perks, legal or not, come with the gifts. Cheating and stealing are just part of the package of standing out in the crowd. The same standards do not apply to the highly gifted or highly successful as they do to the average guy.
At the end of the day, charisma can take you only where character can keep you. Character may not seem as valuable and important as charisma, but it has proven to be just as important if not more so.
A look back in history shows us what eventually happens to those who do not value integrity and character. World leaders and presidents who engaged in immorality are better known for their moral failures than they are for their professional accomplishments. Some world leaders’ careers are cut short because of moral failures that surface.
It is a matter of choosing to be respected more than admired. Others may admire your abilities and charisma, but they respect your character. Character makes your life and career sustainable while charisma just makes it more visible.
A well-known leader who was very effective in his calling just passed away at age eighty-two. He was very gifted and focused. Additionally, he had great integrity. He was a friend of mine and I once told my wife that this great leader was “the kindest man I had ever met.” His gifting was obvious, but behind the scenes he was kind to store clerks and everyday people. That is what I will remember most about his life.
How do you develop the character that should accompany your gifting? The humility to recognize that you need it, and possibly don’t have it, is the first step. Second, admitting that only God and his power can truly transform your weaknesses into strengths, is the key to character. Looking within yourself for virtue instead of looking to the Holy Spirit and his fruit, is a dead end.
Doing little things daily behind the scenes when others are not watching is the key to developing strength of character. Being honest in all things, obeying the law when you could get away with it, treating those who might be considered little people the same as everyone else, and many other daily practices strengthen your character, even though no one else sees you doing it.
Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Consistently speaking and acting the same makes your character predictable, and develops your “character muscles”.
Do you want to be admired, or respected? What if you could develop your gifting and integrity at the same pace? The foundation of character would make your charisma more long lasting, and you would also accomplish more because of the longevity of your career.
I have been married for decades, and love my wife very much. I have several children and grandchildren. One of the things that has kept me faithful to my wife is a potential scene I have played out in my mind. What would it look like if I had to tell my wife that I had betrayed her trust? What would it be like to tell my children and grandchildren I had broken my wife’s heart? A moment of pleasure is not worth the cost a lack of integrity would have on me or others. Lack of character affects those around you as well as you.
Integrity and character aren’t as shiny and attractive as charisma, however they are just as valuable, if not more so. Make it a point to develop your character and integrity as you excel in and develop your gifting. You will be glad you did.