Life: A School for Character Development

So often I have the privilege of sitting front-row with my clients and watching new strengths emerge in their lives. As counselors, we are always thrilled to see symptoms relieved and problems diminishing. Yet, occasionally, we see something even more impressive. Struggle brings opportunity–Character may deepen, resiliency can develop, and real, lasting joy begins to arise.

What causes deep change in a person?

Ironically, suffering—the experience of some pain or trouble—seems to be one key ingredient for deep change. Anxiety, depression, relationship problems: these are real challenges, and counselors undoubtedly seek to provide real solutions and relief for these issues. But so often a deeper growth occurs as a byproduct in the lives of our clients. It’s not something we can directly control or provide another since it’s your mindset that changes.

“Who you are at your core”

Some call it attitude, character, heart, or mindset…. Regardless, who you are at your core will develop in profound ways when you face suffering and challenges, for better or worse. And these changes make a huge difference. I think the theologian J.I. Packer was right when he said that many of our problems could stem from “our inability to see life as a school for character development and not just our personal fulfillment” (Referenced in Yarhouse, Butman & McRay, 2005, p.49).

If life is just about consumption, personal satisfaction, temporary symptom relief, or winning, then disappointment will always be just around the corner. But if life is a “school for character development,” then facing your struggles may put you closer to experiencing a deeper, lasting joy.