I watched a 9/11 documentary a while ago, and one of the lines really grabbed my attention. A Chief from one of the fire stations said, in describing his men, “They got character. And I’ll tell ya what character is; character’s what made these guys go up the stairs of the World Trade Center. While everybody else was goin’ down, they were goin’ up. These guys are heroes.”
Character is the amalgam of all our choices, our unbreakable steel core forged by virtuous acts carried out repeatedly in the face of adversity, hardship, struggle, suffering. Character is the rudder that steers us aright in the stormy seas and keeps our boat from turning awry and capsizing, the ballast that keeps us steady in an unsteady world.
Character’s what you do when no one’s looking.
Pope Benedict once said we should live in constant rehearsal for martyrdom by our costly witness of Faith and our daily sacrifices of Love. If you choose every small goodness with a martyr’s love, if/when the great trials come you will naturally choose to ‘go up’ and not ‘run down.’