I am persuaded by your argument that, in the final analysis, character is the only thing that counts. And I think I have finally identified my calling in life. However, this is going to be a long and difficult road.
How can I have the strength to keep going, especially when it hurts?
I am glad that you are realistic about the challenges of travelling down the tough road you have chosen.
The first thing that will help you to keep going is the knowledge that it is the right road.
The second thing that will help you to keep going is the knowledge that it is the best road even though it may not seem like that from time to time.
The third thing is that, at the end, it is the most rewarding road you could possibly take.
But these are concepts and words. Let us be more practical.
I enjoy and am a great admirer of Rabindranath Tagore’s song Jodi toray daak shunay kyo naa aashay, taubi ekla chalo ray. However, you and I know that travelling alone is never easy. Nor is it as much fun as travelling with at least one or two friends! So focus on finding one or two others who are willing to support you, and are willing to commit the time necessary to understanding the challenges and sacrifices involved in developing your character and fulfilling your calling. In the long run, that support will last only if you similarly support these close friends.
Next, character has to do with values. If we wish to develop character, we need to constantly refresh our values. What values? There are different opinions on that. But, having studied the world’s philosophies and religions, I have found that nothing else presents us higher ideals and values than the person and teachings of Jesus. So I meditate every day on a passage from the New Testament. I find that it also helps to feed my mind and spirit with the biographies and autobiographies of heroes who are lesser in stature (because they are of course not quite perfect in their character). Such heroes highlight certain aspects of character in action – people such as Mahatma Phule, Dr Ambedkar, and Mother Teresa from our own country, and people such as Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela and William Wilberforce from other countries.
I also find that it helps regularly to take time out to reflect on my life, on the direction it is going, and on the challenges and choices facing me. Some Hindu traditions dedicate each Tuesday for “religious” purposes, and that could certainly be adapted for reflection. Christians usually dedicate Sundays to this. Jews could dedicate Saturdays. Muslims could dedicate Fridays. And so on. Though atheists and agnostics will probably find it easiest to stick to Sundays because that governs the rhythm of our business and office lives. In addition to these weekly days, we have festivals and holidays spread through the year. These can provide a longer break from the daily grind.
Further, though this is not so common in India, many countries also have sabbaticals. As the name suggests, these were originally meant to be taken for each seventh year. Nowadays, companies and governments seem to be less generous! In most cases, where sabbaticals exist, they usually mean paid leave for up to a year. It is not bad to invest such extended time in further study or learning something new, as well as doing something for the community, the nation and the world. Most of all, weekly breaks, festivals, holidays and sabbaticals refresh people, and I find that I need to be regularly and frequently refreshed if I am to remain a joyful person and not become dull.
Lastly, I find that I need to speak to God and listen to God. I need his shoulder to cry on when people attack me, or say and do nasty things. I need to acknowledge not only to the affected human being(s) but also to God when I have done things that are wrong or less than my best, or when I have failed to do what is right and good, so that I can receive forgiveness and fresh motivation and energy. I need his supernatural companionship and strength to carry on when it hurts, and when I am tempted to go down easier roads.
At some points you may indeed have to walk alone, or feel that you are walking alone. But God watches our progress and supports us. He sends his angels, supernatural and human, to encourage us. Those who have gone before us cheer us from the sidelines, even though we are not usually able to see them. And the day will come when we will finally see them and be with them. Not only that, ultimately we will win the victory, because the universe is a moral one. Our calling will be fulfilled and we ourselves will have become, by God’s grace, like God in our character, as we are designed to be: full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Dear Dhiraj, there is no use in gaining even the whole world, if one ends up with having the wrong character oneself, and so loses one’s own soul. The other roads seem easier to start with, but they end in the wrong place. That is the greatest reason for sticking to the tough road that you have chosen. Best wishes for this journey of a thousand miles that must be undertaken one step at a time.