“Character is power. If you want to be powerful in the world, if you want to be strong, influential and useful, you can be so in no better way than by having a strong character.” —Booker T. Washington
I love tea. Many of you know how much I like coffee, but you may not know how much I also enjoy tea. I have tried many teas over the years but my current favorite is PG Tips, a popular British blend of Assam, Ceylon and Kenyan teas. It’s interesting to me how they can all look and smell the same in the tea bag but can be so dramatically different after steeped. You can’t know the flavor until the hot water pulls it out from the leaves. So often in life we think we know our own character and what is core to our being, but it isn’t until the trials of life that we truly discover what is on the inside. Like tea, our true character is revealed in the hot waters of difficulty, stress, pressure and challenges. What we really are, what we have cultivated and nurtured on the inside spills out. Difficulties don’t define us, but reveal the true us.
We just crossed over the 3rd month since the start of COVID, social distancing, face masks, safer at home remote work and now economic and social justice issues. How are you doing during these difficult times? What is spilling out of you? What have you learned about yourself and others? Does it make you happy or make you want to change? These are questions I’ve been asking myself. I must confess, I feel like I’m a bit more like Decaffeinated Lipton than PG Tips. I am too easily frustrated and irritated at things that don’t go my way. I don’t always listen well (my family helped me discover this). I should be more vocal and active in supporting my fellow human brothers and sisters. I have work to do.
As the hot waters of difficulty and change washed over my family and team, I must say, I am incredibly proud. I have seen heroic characters surface in areas I didn’t expect, compassion, generosity, optimism and leadership spill out from all areas. I have also seen a river of creative problem-solving.
Sure, there have been moments when tempers flare and struggles with despair set in, but even in those moments we have had good conversations. I know that we all have a list of things we have discovered about ourselves and each other. My challenge to you today is to not let this great opportunity go to waste. As we do with all incidents, this is a great moment to study, learn and change. Be understanding. Be kind but also be brave.
What’s in your tea cup? What would you change about yourself? Your character spills out and becomes a powerful agent to influence the world around you. You matter. Your character matters. What you are inside will be revealed during difficulties. Take this opportunity to learn about yourself and cultivate a strong character so that when it spills out it becomes a powerful and useful influence on the world.