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Character {when no one else is looking}

Some of my favorite quotes on character were spoken by one of the most revered coaches in the history of sports John Wooden who coached UCLA basketball from the 40’s to the 70’s. He was a devout Christian and family man–and quotes like his are the reason I will probably never write a book. It’s already been said better than I ever could. Love these quotes of his on character–something I want to teach my children is more important than anything they will learn in books…

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?”

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.”

After a week of watching…people watching is my little quiet hobby I do in between changing diapers and homeschool…I’ve been reflecting on character. I’ve invited my kids in these past few weeks to step back with me and just watch. We live in a culture where teachable moments are around every corner if we just slow down and watch together–and then process them with our children.

What did you think about what you heard him say? How do you think it made the other person feel? Do you think they would have said that to someone they loved? Do you think they would have done that if they knew we were watching?

Then we have talked and reflected on other choices–and challenged ourselves to think about…our own lives. Are there things I might not say or do if I knew someone else was watching? THIS. This is character.

So Wednesday…

We arrived to a local nature center type place where they were having a camp for kids. Precious little ones ran in the museum area with their counselors just as we were looking at a few treasures behind the glass. I stood back…wondering. I wonder if all these counselors love–I mean really love the kids and their job.

That thought had hardly passed when I saw a little guy the same age as one of my little kindergarden loves. He had eyed this pretty cool stone rock with citrine quartz crystals forming on the outside. I’ll give it to the kid. It was luring. My kids had touched it earlier–and then I saw the “do not touch” sign beside so I whispered to them to just look and they moseyed on. I mean–what kids just wants to LOOK;)?

So this little love has been entrusted into the camp care–with possibly money carefully budgeted by his mom to cover a day camp to build character, confidence–and to have fun. He is enticed by the beauty of this rock. WHO wouldn’t be–I mean…my kids certainly were. So what does he do? You got it. He touches it. And then…my heart–BROKE.

“DO. NOT. Touch. KID. Can you READ???”

Maybe I’m sensitive because I have a child who was a struggling reader at his age. Maybe I’m sensitive because I’m a mom. Maybe I’m sensitive because I saw the little boy’s face when she said those words. And I stood there. Watching. Listening. When she thought…no one else was. Character.

I really am the type of person who just listens and minds my own business. Really–I am. But if you say something loud enough where I can hear–directed to a little person who can’t defend themselves–well, then Biblically…we have to defend those who can’t defend themselves especially when it means at the cost of hurt hearts (big or small).

My Laney stood there beside me–watching too. And I first made it an opportunity for my littles to learn. Leading them through thought provoking questions about what they observed. Could the counselor hear me? Well–of course. But my first ministry is to always mold my children–to encourage that little boy who was motherless at the moment–and then to her. I’m sure she would have worded things differently had she known I was listening. But she didn’t. Character.

And then. I think deeper.

About. ME. At home. As a mom.

One of my prayers has always been for the Lord to shape me and help me to be a woman of true, noble character when others are looking–and when they are not.

I remember that my God is always with me…He is always there…always watching–not like a judge with a buzzer (although in fact He is the most High Judge)–but rather He is there because He loves ME and He always loves whoever might be in the room with me.

Help me Lord to always do the right thing–even when no one else is looking.

We should be the same player on and off the field. And my hope for that counselor is that she really is the same player on and off the field because I would be really worried if she wasn’t. How might she really treat someone when there was really no one around? Who knows. And that–that is what really isn’t my business. I have to look into my own heart and life and ask the Lord to help make me consistent as if a great cloud of witnesses was right there surrounding me cheering me on to Christlikeness in every circumstance–at home, in my van, in the aisle at Target…everywhere. Because character matters. My kids matter. Whoever I say things to–they matter. They matter so much more regardless of who is there listening. The same on and off the field. Character.

While this blog is on CHARACTER–I’m going to take a quick parenting moment to say an application to this character challenge…

I’m going through a season of parenting right now with one of my younger children who melts A LOT. There are daily moments–where I am tempted to scream, say something unkind, say something that HAPPENS to be true at the moment (maybe like that counselor–maybe he couldn’t read)–but truth that doesn’t actually need to be spoken. I get it. Maybe my child having tantrums IS acting like a baby. BUT–speaking that truth will not change him or build him up, and it doesn’t always (or most of the time) need to be spoken. For us as parents–nothing will try the patience of a mom like a struggling child who is having a tantrum at 2 years old or 16. But this–this can be a true test of character–an opportunity to struggle myself or an opportunity to build it.

So what do you need to speak?? A wise mom once told me to treat my child who is struggling like the child I want him to become. And THAT changes everything. It builds my character processing who I want my child to become, processing together what probably should have happened and giving a challenge for what we will do next time.

Character is treating people the same no matter their outer appearance. It is looking at people the way the Lord looks at them. Choosing to look at the heart–EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

So another observance of character was on a mommy-and-me date last night.

We got to a really nice Mexican restaurant and sat down next to two couples with 1 year olds. I’ve been there. I get it. But I don’t get what I observed next.

The two babies had made an awful mess on the floor as well as all over the table and in their high chairs. I can’t imagine anyone allowing this to happen in their own home–and if you did–I’m sure you most certainly cleaned it up or maybe even let the dog help clean it up. We watched–observed. And they got up to leave. They even paused to take a picture with their iPhones laughing at the mess they had made…and LEFT.


Character is treating people the same no matter their appearance. Character is treating other people how you want to be treated. Character is leaving things better than you found them–every time.

So the waiters came over–and I watched their shoulders droop. Laney and I watched their discouragement as they cleaned. And we walked over to talk to them and encourage them–and before it was over their spirits were uplifted. And we also took a picture;)


UM. Y’all.

I don’t think so.

Would you leave the table like this if you were visiting your sister’s restaurant and she was your server? (Treat people the same no matter their appearance). Would you leave this mess at your friend’s house? Or what about your house?

Now being the mommy of 5 children ages 9 and under–I get there are some times you HAVE to run. I get that!! But their is a cost to leaving a table like this (not the $10 tip this waiter got from a table of 4 adults and 2 messy babies)! If you are in a pickle and you must run leaving behind a mess–and you do treat the server as you would for say–your sister at your sister’s restaurant–you would most certainly honor her with an “I’m sorry and You ROCK” note–and a $50 bill. If you can’t leave leave a $50 bill–then just clean up the mess and leave the floor like you found it, just as you would at your own house. No one will ever see this–your cleaning up or your choice to leave it a mess. Most likely your servers all open the folder with the tip or return to clean the table after you leave. But this is character…even when no one is looking.

On the farm we have been so blessed by our older neighbor Mr. Burt. It took us WEEKS to figure out how in the world the grass over the fence on our property close to the road was getting cut. Finally–one day…I caught him. For two months Mr. Burt had been cutting this thin sliver of grass that mind you adds 15 minutes to his mowing. I ran out. Asked him what on earth he was doing…

“Well ma’am. I saw you use a riding mower–and I’d never seen a push mower–and I thought to myself, she’ll never be able to safely cut that grass without a push mower. So every time I cut mine–I cut yours. Folks have to look out for each other.”


And just like that. I saw character. He didn’t need a thank you. Or a note in the mailbox. He didn’t even need to know my name. He had treated me the way he would had I been his sister or mom–and done it when no one was looking. No recognition needed. A sacrifice for him. But left a place better than when he found it.

This too–I need to always point out to my children and reflect on as well. Because really–there are just as many examples of men and women with good character. And reflecting on these with my children as well challenges me to think of good things to do–and to do them…and thats where James 4:17 is tricky because what we each SHOULD do will look different for everyone. But how beautiful it is when we ask the Lord to make us men and women of good character—blessing not only our lives but the lives of everyone’s lives we so miraculously get to be a part of as well.

May you be men and women of strong, godly, admirable, true and good character. What a gift we can give our children as we run to this goal together!


Jennifer OCain - July 26, 2014 - 9:04 am

Andrea this is such a great post on character and I will be sharing this! Thank you for encouraging me on ways to be a better mom too!