The Fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5 are ideals that I memorized long ago as a child. Galatians 5:22 and 23 share the Fruits of the Spirit as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are character skills that I know my parents intentionally tried to instill in my brother and I, and they are still skills that I do my best to improve upon each day.
While we may often look to these Fruits for guidance, we often do not take much time to look at the opposite behaviors associated with these ideals. A few verses earlier in Galatians the opposite behaviors are laid out for us. These acts are listed as: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
The opposite behaviors to the Fruits of the Spirit are repulsive. The scary part is if you are not acting with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, then your actions are moving towards those opposite behaviors. Hopefully, you thought to yourself, “I definitely don’t act like that.” But, if you are not acting with patience, then you are more than likely acting out of hatred, rage, or discord. If you are not acting out of love, then you are probably acting out of jealousy or fits of rage. I know emotions are never black and white, but your behavior determines which list of character traits you really value. If you want to know what someone really believes, examine their behavior over time. Their actions will tell you what they really believe. Small lapses of poor behavior do not make us bad people, but we do need to think about why those behaviors took place and find ways to handle the situations better the next time. We cannot just hope to be more patient next time, we need to find strategies that will allow us to stay patient in difficult times.
I had a similar conversation with the staff at my school this week. As we gear up for a new school year, we are trying to be very clear about our expectations and the behaviors we want to promote in our building. In part of my opening day presentation, I shared the following slide with our teachers.
If you are operating on the left side of the line, then you are not on the right. If your daily actions are on the right side of the line, then you are not living with integrity, services, perseverance, social conscience, sense of community, or a responsibility for growth. The side of the line your daily behavior tends to align with shows those around you what you really believe. If these values belong only on a poster on the wall, and are not shown in our daily behavior, then we will never achieve as a school at the level we desire.
You have to decide on which side of the line you want your character to reside. Once you decide, find ways to get better in each of those areas. While we are going to spend time this year really defining what those character skills are and what they look like in our classrooms, YOU are the only one that can decide how you behave each day. It is a conscious, intentional, choice to live each day aligning your behaviors to your beliefs. Simple, but not easy.
Live a life full of positive character and let your behaviors be a model to inspire others to do the same!
Keep learning, keep growing, keep sharing!