More notes on character

I’d heard of Temple Grandin but never bothered to check out what she had to say until a friend sent a link to this 2010 TED video. Four million views—wow! As a talk, I didn’t think it was all that good, since it presumes that you know a lot about her already (I guess from the movie made about her).

Her point about not neglecting those who think differently reminded me of something I wrote elsewhere on this blog:

As we raised our kids, and continue to raise them, we kept competitive activities near zero. We also left their gifts mostly alone to flourish as they would, focusing instead on teaching them to compensate for their weaknesses and to be diligent in necessary things that were distasteful or didn’t come naturally.

But as I read the entire post where I found that excerpt, I realized that Grandin is arguing that we need to feed more kids into the meritocracy mill, whereas I think we should avoid the mill altogether, focusing instead on guiding our kids through building a well-rounded character and letting their various gifts take care of themselves.

I’m still reading about Christian character, no surprise. The latest book is N.T. Wright’s After You Believe, titled Virtue Reborn in England, both not very good titles, but the subtitle is accurate: Why Christian Character Matters. As usual I’m disappointed at the lack of specifics–Wright spends all but one chapter making his case for the importance of doing the work, and then ends up in the usual place—read your Bible, pray every day, embrace the liturgy. But Wright is a careful and accessible writer, and he has demonstrated some things for me I was mostly assuming beforehand. (Here’s a talk by Wright on the topic.)

(And yes, Willard’s Renovation of the Heart–which I’m now reading for the fourth or fifth time–is better and far more practical, but since it isn’t more widely used I have to assume there’s something unapproachable about it.)

Another recommendation: two books by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, a professor at Calvin College, about vice and virtue. The first one, Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies, is on my Kindle but I haven’t read it yet because I couldn’t resist starting with her followup, Vainglory: The Forgotten Vice. Which is excellent! It spelled out for me the (good) reasons for my growing uneasiness about public performance, especially in places like church.

It’s short on practical remedies, and even though Glittering Vices mentions remedies in its subtitle I have to wonder if it will fulfill the promise. But reading Wright and DeYoung has softened my impatience a bit regarding the lack of specifics. As Jordan Peterson points out in several places, if you’re serious about tackling the shortcomings in your life it isn’t difficult to come up with specific first steps to take, you just need to sit on your bed and think to yourself, honestly, what things could I do today to make things better? They will present themselves, promptly and insistently.

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