THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN NATURE AND HABIT
Many elements of our character are often expressed unconsciously by our nature and habit. Character is constituted with thirty percent nature by birth and seventy percent habit formed by the daily life. Our character is expressed in many characteristics. These characteristics are built up with thirty percent of our nature and seventy percent of our habit. You may have been born a slow person. If you were under strict parents and teachers who would not allow you to be slow, but compelled you to be quick, it would change, to some extent, the slowness you received by birth. If, on the other hand, you were born slow and lived with parents who were also slow, then a habit of being slow would have been built up within you. The slowness you received by birth would be joined to a habit of slowness to form a character with this terrible characteristic.
LEARNING TO BUILD UP A DIFFERENT CHARACTER
The New Testament tells us that to follow the Lord we must learn to deny ourselves. Yet, we must ask, what is the self? The self within is our disposition, and the self expressed is our character. We often say that young boys are very stubborn and young girls are not. A father may be very strict in dealing with his son when he does something wrong. But often his son will not do what he tells him to do, even after the son agrees with his father to do it. This exposes the young boy’s stubborn character. If he is very stubborn with his father, he may be even more stubborn as a brother in the church life or when he has his own family.
Males usually have a particular characteristic of being stubborn in an apparent way, while females do not seem to be stubborn at all. Actually, both males and females are stubborn because they both are descendants of Adam. Even though males and females are the same in some aspects of character, there are some differences. Females or sisters, being the weaker vessels (1 Pet. 3:7), have a number of small weak points. One of the most apparent weak points is the matter of shedding tears. Females may be weak by nature, but they must exercise not to form a habit of shedding tears. Once such a habit is developed, it becomes a strong element in their character. This character is just the self. The Lord said in Matthew 16:24 that anyone who desires to come after Him must deny himself. The self that must be denied in the case of the sisters is the dropping of tears.
Brothers, however, have the opposite problem of not shedding tears. In Acts 20 Paul testified that he served the Lord and admonished the saints with tears (vv. 19, 31). Many times after reading this I have rebuked myself for not shedding tears. I have gotten into the habit that when tears come, I call them back so that they only fall inside of me and not outside. But sometimes, to follow the Lord, we must be able to shed tears. Brothers must learn to be against themselves to shed tears, and sisters must learn to be against themselves not to shed tears.
CHRISTIANS HAVING THE HIGHEST CHARACTER
As Christians we are people on the highest level. Whether we are rich or poor, highly educated or uneducated, we are people of a high standard. We may have a low position in society, but whatever we do, even if it is to sweep the street, it should be done according to a high standard. Our character must be very high. For example, we may prefer quickness to slowness. But often, our quickness is too wild without any standard. Even quickness must be the proper quickness according to a high standard. The way we take care of our hair should also be of a high standard, even honorably.
The eight items mentioned in Philippians 4:8 are items we must pick up to build up our character. We must be people with a character which is true in every way, honorable in everything, righteous, pure in every aspect, lovely, and well-spoken of. Though we cannot avoid being belittled, smeared, and damaged by our persecutors, we do have a certain kind of character. This character is something which has been built up and constituted within our being over many years. As human beings, we all have certain characteristics which are points of our character. Therefore, if we hear an accusation against someone we have known for a number of years, we do not receive it. The reason for this is that we know the character of that person. This person’s character has certain characteristics which do not correspond to the accusation.
(The Experience and Growth in Life, Chapter 28, by Witness Lee)