An Ideal Life Trajectory

"He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray" - Proverbs 5:23.

If we can graph our life in an access that measures how successfully we have lived, most if not all of us would prefer a continuously rising graph, regardless of what the word "success" means to us. We would like to avoid a graph with a downward direction or even one that's flat. If there be times when a dip in the graph happens, we would like to see only a short downward shift and the direction to reverse quickly and rise again. The pictured graph above is not ideal, but maybe typical.

That ideal graph is not a function of intelligence for we have seen a lot of intelligent people fumble or end up not very well.Neither is it a function of skill. One can be most skillful in one thing and be foolishly inept in another. For example, many "successful" career people in various industries suck when in comes to relationships or family life.

If you're wondering what is it that can make our life graph follow that ideal trajectory - a rising trajectory - then maybe we ought to consider what many recognizes as much more important than our skill level, ability and talent or career accomplishment. John Wooden, a former basketball player and coach, may have captured a distinction when he said, “Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.”

If ability brings a person to the top, hence a rising graph, a lack of character will cause that good-looking graph to nosedive soon enough. And again, without character, that downward spiral may be difficult, if not impossible, to reverse. I am even inclined to believe that the rising graph, the one that's headed to the top, is already a factor of both ability and character.

Perhaps a very good case in point is the movie industry. Hollywood production companies put up with plenty of eccentric stars. Often a touch of weird behavior is good for business. But even Hollywood has its limits. Tom Cruise for instance was sacked by Paramount movie studio in 2006 for lecturing a tv host about how psychiatry is a pseudoscience. Tom Cruise had no business talking about something he didn't know anything about. Presumptuousness? Hubris? Take your pick. Many movie outfits avoid casting Lindsay Lohan for her hard-partying character which can cause problems right from filming schedules and later on PR and marketing.

Wooden's statement is not a new thing. The bible has been telling us of this distinction between ability and character and it's clear what the word of God puts weight on. The first king of Israel was a popular people's choice because of his physical appearance and his abilities. His downfall was caused by a lack of character. The story of Samson follows the same narrative - a man with so many superlative abilities but who lacks self-control.

The bible encourages its readers to work on their character a lot. Even the initial event that makes a believer a real child of God brings with it gifts that are in themselves mostly about developing character. For instance, here's what Apostle Paul in Galatians tell us about this divine gift: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control."

God would have chosen to gift believers with things like riches, power, fame, influence, etc. Instead, what the Holy Spirit bring are character traits. When this is seconded by another apostle in 2 Peter with "For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love." there is no doubt left what the Lord want us to develop first as a person.

When we couple these character building instructions and the assurance of the Lord for those who do that He will "add all other things" to those who seek first His kingdom and righteousness, then it's easy to visualize what life graph that combination will result to.