As a child, I sat up eagerly in my lower bunk bed each night as my dad quizzed me and my brother on several scripture memory verses and Bill Gothard’s 49 Character Clues. After he shuffled the deck of Character Clue cards, he would read a character trait and whoever could spit out the definition first got to hold the card. I was two years younger, so some nights my dad would give me a bonus point or five to give me a fighting chance.
The Character Clues were Bill Gothard’s definition of character traits, complete with antonym and supporting scripture verse. In general, the definitions were fine. They forced me to spend more time considering the distinctions between similar positive traits. For example, I recognized that being “attentive” to another person was not just about listening, but also a way to communicate to that person that s/he was worth listening to.
What I failed to notice for an embarrassingly long time (actually, until I read more about authoritarian regimes) was that these were not the “right” definitions of these words, as if there were such a thing. Bill Gothard had re-defined the words that were important to his goals, as all exclusive societies do. These definitions were not – as they had been presented to me – a peek into the truth behind the words as much as they were a peek into Bill Gothard’s worldview:
Alertness vs. Unawareness
Being aware of that which is taking place around me so I can have right response to it.
Attentiveness vs. Unconcern
Showing the worth of a person by giving undivided attention to his words and emotions.
Availability vs. Self-centeredness
Making my own schedule and priorities secondary to the wishes of those I am serving.
Boldness vs. Fearfulness
Confidence that what I have to say or do is true and right and just in the sight of God.
Cautiousness vs. Rashness
Knowing how important right timing is in accomplishing right actions.
Compassion vs. Indifference
Investing whatever is necessary to heal the hurts of others.
Contentment vs. Covetousness
Realizing that God has provided everything I need for my present happiness.
Creativity vs. Underachievement
Approaching a need, a task, an idea from a new perspective.
Decisiveness vs. Double-mindedness
The ability to finalize difficult decisions based on the will and ways of God.
Deference vs. Rudeness
Limiting my freedom in order not to offend the tastes of those God has called me to serve.
Dependability vs. Inconsistency
Fulfilling what I consented to do even if it means unexpected sacrifice.
Determination vs. Faintheartedness
Purposing to accomplish God’s goals in God’s time, regardless of the opposition.
Diligence vs. Slothfulness
Visualizing each task as a special assignment from the Lord and using all my energies to accomplish it.
Discernment vs. Judgment
The God-given ability to understand why things happen.
Discretion vs. Simplemindedness
The ability to avoid words, actions, and attitudes which could result in undesirable consequences.
Endurance vs. Giving Up
The inward strength to withstand stress to accomplish God’s best.
Enthusiasm vs. Apathy
Expressing with my soul the joy of my spirit.
Faith vs. Presumption
Visualizing what God intends to do in a given situation and acting in harmony with it.
Flexibility vs. Resistance
Not setting my affections on ideas or plans which could be changed by God or others.
Forgiveness vs. Rejection
Clearing the record of those who have wronged me and allowing God to love them through me.
Generosity vs. Stinginess
Realizing that all I have belongs to God and using it for His purposes.
Gentleness vs. Harshness
Showing personal care and concern in meeting the needs of others.
Gratefulness vs. Unthankfulness
Making known to God and others in what ways they have benefited my life.
Hospitality vs. Lonliness
Cheerfully sharing food, shelter, and spiritual refreshment with those whom God brings into my life.
Humility vs. Pride
Recognizing that it is actually God and others who are responsible for the achievements in my life.
Initiative vs. Unresponsiveness
Recognizing and doing what needs to be done before I am asked to do it.
Joyfulness vs. Self-pity
The spontaneous enthusiasm of my spirit when my soul is in fellowship with the Lord.
Justice vs. Fairness
Personal responsibility to God’s unchanging laws.
Love vs. Selfishness
Giving to others’ basic needs without having as my motive personal reward.
Loyalty vs. Unfaithfulness
Using difficult times to demonstrate my commitment to God and to those whom He has called me to serve.
Meekness vs. Anger
Yielding my personal rights and expectations to God.
Obedience vs. Willfulness
Freedom to be creative under the protection of divinely-appointed authority.
Orderliness vs. Disorganization
Preparing myself and my surroundings so I will achieve the greatest efficiency.
Patience vs. Restlessness
Accepting a difficult situation from God without giving Him a deadline to remove it.
Persuasiveness vs. Contentiousness
Guiding vital truths around another’s mental roadblocks.
Punctuality vs. Tardiness
Showing high esteem for other people and their time.
Resourcefulness vs. Wastefulness
Wise use of that which others would normally overlook or discard.
Responsibility vs. Unreliability
Knowing and doing what both God and others are expecting from me.
Reverence vs. Disrespect
Awareness of how God is working through the people and events in my life to produce the character of Christ in me.
Security vs. Anxiety
Structuring my life around what is eternal and cannot be destroyed or taken away.
Self-Control vs. Self-indulgence
Instant obedience to the initial promptings of God’s Spirit.
Sensitivity vs. Callousness
Exercising my senses so I can perceive the true spirit and emotions of those around me.
Sincerity vs. Hypocrisy
Eagerness to do what is right with transparent motives.
Thoroughness vs. Incompleteness
Knowing what factors will diminish the effectiveness of my work or words if neglected.
Thriftiness vs. Extravagance
Not letting myself or others spend that which is not necessary.
Tolerance vs. Prejudice
Acceptance of others as unique expressions of specific character qualities in varying degrees of maturity.
Truthfulness vs. Deception
Earning future trust by accurately reporting past facts.
Virtue vs. Impurity
The moral excellence and purity of spirit that radiate from my life as I obey God’s Word.
Wisdom vs. Natural Inclinations
Seeing and responding to life’s situations from God’s frame of reference.