Er, a…I meant to say, Speedo Drops Lochte. My bad. But that was one of the headlines yesterday. As the Olympics have wrapped up, this was one of the sadder moments from the past couple of weeks. But even sadder – either headline would have been believable. And it’s all because of something called character. 

The Bible speaks of something that is greater than a trophy case full of gold medals: a life of honor.  “A good name is more desirable than great riches” (Prov.22:1). Mull on this verse for a moment.

Some have said that Lochte’s sordid tale is one of bad judgment. For his sake, I could only hope. Bad judgment is a mistake that a person of good character can make. We’re all capable of it.

Character though is something deeper. It’s more imbedded in the soul. It’s a resume of sound values and good choices that one builds up over time. Character becomes part of the moral DNA of the person. It becomes an integral part of the person, which helps us understand the word integrity (‘the state of being whole or undivided’). DL Moody said that, “Integrity is what a person is in the dark.”

Honor, because it’s a part of the person, seems to show itself naturally, without effort, especially in moments of crisis or challenge. Character is not produced by tests and temptations – it is revealed.

And should the person of character falter, like a compass knocked off its axis, he or she would swiftly swing back to true north. They wouldn’t double down on the error. Or reinforce the lie. Or jump on the next plane and flee accountability. Or hire a PR firm to assist them in drafting a note of apology for the public. The regret would pour out of them – honestly, fully, desperately.

How does one acquire character? Leadership guru John Maxwell said growing in leadership happens daily but not in a day. Same with character. It’s developed over time through a thousand daily decisions (which Lochte should understand – it’s the same process for becoming an Olympic swimmer). Choosing truth over a lie. Showing up for work on time. Not making an excuse for failure, but owning it. Saying, “My bad.” Being grateful. Speaking respectfully to those in authority. Canning the F-bombs. Not envying the ones above you. Not despising the ones beneath you.

Jesus said, “The good person brings good things out of the good stored up in him” (Matthew 12:35). It may seem a small thing when you do the right thing even though no one is watching and there’ll be no apparent reward for it. But in time the gains will be huge.

The good news for Ryan Lochte – and for any of us – is that helping a human grow in character is right in God’s wheelhouse. We just need to present ourselves humbly before him and say, “Lord, I’m a mess. Forgive me and make me new.” If you say that prayer, then fasten your seatbelts. You’re in for an adventure.

 

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