Character-Building Habits



It’s not by strength or speed or swiftness of body that great deeds are done, but by wisdom, character, and sober judgment. These qualities…grow richer as time passes.

-Marcus Tullius Cicero

     As I write this, we’re hearing heartbreaking news from Chicago. Over the 4th of July weekend, over 100 people were shot, and at least 15 have died. Pray for the families of those who lost loved ones. But also pray for our country, as it seems to be unraveling. We have lots of questions, but seemingly few answers. But here is one answer. Maybe we need to get back to the basics and start teaching our kids how to be responsible adults.

As I wrote about in my last post, I’ve been reading a book that my oldest son gave me – The Vanishing American Adult, by Ben Sasse, a US Senator from Nebraska. This book is a must-read if you’re a parent, grandparent, or just anyone who has a pulse and loves this country. This groundbreaking book provides tangible answers on how to teach our kids to become responsible adults and men and women of character. After laying out the problem – distracted, drifting, indulged, and passive teens, he presents a solution and framework, built about instilling five character-building habits.  I wonder if we’re reaping the consequences of a generation that is woefully unprepared to be adults?

So here are his five character-building habits:

  1. Overcome peer culture.  Break free from your exclusive group and learn about life from others who have walked the trail.


  1. Develop a work ethic.  Don’t protect them from hard work.  Sweat is OK.


  1. Embrace limited consumption.  Consumption isn’t the key to happiness; production is.


  1. Travel to experience the difference between “need” and want.”  Acquiring more stuff doesn’t bring happiness.


  1. Learn how to read and decide what to read.  There is a difference in knowing how to read and how to read well.  Unplug and read.

I’m going to write a post on each one of these character-building habits, but let’s explore the first one now. So here is what he means by overcoming peer culture – …our emerging adults are cut off from older generations and the reality of human frailty. They’re limited in a culture created by their peers. Consequently, they don’t appreciate the joys of birth and growth and the tragedy of pain and decline. We isolate them into groupings of people their own age, and shield them from those who have lived through a tough life, yet learned to overcome, face adversity, and even succeed.

We need to expose our kids to an older generation, of people who know how to truly love, who know how to redeem our limited time on earth by purposeful living, and who know how to die well.

Do your kids know about history? Have they been around people who have fought in a war or experienced loss and hardship? When I was in seminary in Abilene, Texas, our neighbors, Wendall and Betty Broom, had been life-long missionaries and were now back in America, teaching at the university. Wendall’s dad, lived with them. I’ve long forgotten his given name, but we all just called him “Pappy.” As we got to know Pappy, we learned that he had fought in the First World War. I remember my son Nathan talking to Pappy and Pappy letting him wear his army helmet. Our kids still remember him and his stories. They knew a man who actually fought in World War I, and who knew men who fought in the Civil War.

So the point of this first habit (and there’s much more about it in the book) is to help our kids travel between generations and expose them to those who have traveled a long time down this path called life.  If you want your kids to be responsible adults, find ways to get them next to older adults.

More to come next week.



About Jim Schnorrenberg

Husband; father; grandfather; minister; counselor
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One Response to Character-Building Habits

  1. Kasey Marrs says:

    Great stuff Jim. Thank you

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