STRENGTH of character consists of an ensemble of qualities that endows its possessor with illimitable power over his instincts and his passions.
It is the mastery of self at its highest expression: the application of the power of will to the multiplicity of temptations which constantly assail us. Further, it is the emancipation of the mind from the prejudices which enslave feeble souls; disdain for the petty annoyances whose repetition wears away an intermittent energy.
Strength of character aids us to elicit acts of the will with freedom, at the same time enabling us to bear up under reverses as well as to realize what we set out to accomplish.
It is the strength of character which enables us to consummate the act that we have fixed our choice upon; and thanks to it, we not only can proceed surely in the choice of our resolutions but are also equipped with the means to persevere in them.
At no former period whatsoever has strength of character been so indispensable as it is at the present time. Education, more widely diffused than ever, has refined human aspirations, given great scope to ambition, made bitterer the struggle for wealth.
All feel themselves called, but how many are chosen?
The world is filled with people who complain of their luck, instead of inquiring into its causes, while humbly admitting that it proceeds from frivolity and weakness. Anarchy of motive, giving in at the first impulse, hate of effort, concurs to bring about defeat after defeat, and discouragement does the rest. It is difficult to keep a foothold on a declivity; nevertheless, when one is sure of his way and determined to climb, he will reach the summit in spite of all obstacles.
On the other hand, he, who instead of putting all his strength to the gripping of the rough ledges that might aid his ascent, permits himself to slip back without resistance, is pretty sure to roll to the bottom lucky, indeed, if his fall is not fatal. The obstacles we meet with are nothing less than our lower instincts, which disable us when we have not the strength to surmount them.
Strength of character is not a simple thing: it is the resultant of a complex effort to exert the will directed upon a single point the mastery of self. We should, then, extend pity to the weak ones to whom we have just eluded, and who, alas, are legion; and at the same time, we should seek to convince them of the truth.
Now, their principal defect consists in giving the preponderance to emotion over reason. They never make use of the will for the purpose of reflection, but finding themselves going wrong they bring their instincts into play: “I am wrong it is true, but what would you have?
I was made that way and I can not make myself over again.” By declaring their conviction of the immovability of character they think to acquit themselves of the faults of fancy or momentary humor. They pretend that they are not able to change the character of the motives which are the foundation of volition in what concerns their habitual faults, and with this erroneous premise they allow themselves to go ahead, with a deplorable lack of all resistance.