When I was 12 years old, my older sister entered me in the Bi-Centennial Celebration hotdog eating contest. At 12 years old I weighed in at about 75lbs soaking wet. I asked my sister why she would enter me into this contest, and her response was, “I’ve seen you eat! I think you can win!” Long story short, she was right. At the conclusion of the 5 minutes we were given to consume as many boiled bunless dogs we could stomach, I had downed 18 of them. My prize was $75, which in 1976 was a lot of money.

My first purchase was a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle, but without the compass in the stock or the thing which tells time. It cost all of $11.99, which left plenty of cash for BBs. My older brother Daniel and I had a great time hunting grasshoppers in the garden. But that’s another story.

One day when I got home, I saw my dad with my Red Ryder shooting toward the house – something that would have earned me severe discipline. As I approached, I saw what he was aiming at; a wasp nest on the roof. He was picking them off one by one, and the wasps were trying to figure out what was going on, but dad was far enough away that they never came near him. Now, I’m allergic to wasp stings, so I wanted to get in on the action, and dad was not disinclined to acquiesce to my request. (That means “yes”, and with a hat tip to “Pirates”).

The next day I saw my dad replacing a windowpane with a BB hole in it. It remains a mystery whether it was me or him that shot through the window, and maybe neither of us actually knew. But my dad took responsibility for his and my actions that led to the broken glass. You see, my dad was a man of character. And I have many stories I could, and will tell of how he taught us character traits through his words, and even more so through his actions.

Character encompasses Loyalty, Integrity, Honesty, Love, and Faith. And over the next couple of weeks, I will be writing about these in more detail. The reason we need to explore this area is, as Zig Ziglar once said, “You have to Be before you can do, and you have to Do before you can Have.”

Once you understand the principles of life, before you can even start doing the right things, you need to be the right sort of person, namely a person of good character. You may be able to use certain techniques and processes to gain lots of wealth, but as Jesus once said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul?” As we will see, character is a matter of choice.

Character is a skill that you can learn and continue grow in. They are actions you take regardless of feelings but are done because they are the right thing to do. How we were raised has a lot to do with how we developed our character. But, regardless of our history, character can still be learned. In other words, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Do you have any stories of character you can share? Put them in the comments section below. And keep checking back for more on this very important topic.