This month: developing personal character to complement professional competence.

Member Care Associates
Resources for Good Practice
Update July 2012

Member Care for Mission/Humanitarian Assistance

Member Character
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This issue focuses on the development of character for all those in mission/aid, especially member care workers. We see character as the core qualities of a person. These qualities are consistent over time and also reflect one’s moral goodness. Character is shaped by our life experiences, including hardship and role models. We include two set of resources from a Christian Perspective and a Social Psychology Perspective, to stimulate your own character growth and to support you in your work.

Warm greetings from Kelly and Michèle O’Donnell—Member Care Associates

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.
You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.
So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature
and well-developed, not deficient in any way. James 1:2-4, The Message

Enjoy this music video:
Ready for the Storm (Kathy Matea and Dougie MacClean)
Resource Area One: Christian Perspectives
 Trinity Forumis an organization “committed to the renewal and transformation of society through the renewal and transformation of leaders.” Some of its main contributions are through its curricula and short readings for discussion groups in which  participants review excerpts from classics  ranging from Plato to Christ to Bonhoeffer to Solzhenitsyn. Click here for examples of the readings. Here also are two examples from their Study Series related to character development—relevant for mission/aid!
This bookoffers a series of readings that help us explore, at each level of society, the issues that surround character—the reality of the core of our being, who and what we are when no one else sees. Few issues in our time are more important for individuals and society; few Christian contributions are more decisive and timely; few subjects are more searching for each one of us.
Steering Through Chaos: Vice and Virtue in the Age of Moral Confusion
This book“brings back the classical tradition of the virtues and vices to modern discussions of ethics…before asking “What sort of action should I take?” the proper question is “What sort of person should I be?” The readings… reintroduce the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, lust, and gluttony) and contrast them with their opposites, the beatitudes of Jesus…The vices and virtues…offer us a true moral compass by which we can steer through the chaos of modern society.”
See also:The four postings on Member Character(s) at CORE Member Care; and the two week course on personal development—Face to Face by Operation Mobilisation.
Resource Area Two: Social Psychology Perspectives

Mistakes Were Made (but not by me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts (2007). Authors: Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.
“At some point we all make a bad decision, do something that harms another person, or cling to an outdated belief. When we do, we strive to reduce the cognitive dissonance that results from feeling that we, who are smart, moral, and right, just did something that was dumb, immoral, or wrong.
Whether the consequences are trivial or tragic, it is difficult, and for some people impossible, to say, “I made a terrible mistake.” The higher the stakes—emotional, financial, moral—the greater that difficulty. Self-justification, the hardwired mechanism that blinds us to the possibility that we were wrong, has benefits: It lets us sleep at night and keeps us from torturing ourselves with regrets. But it can also block our ability to see our faults and errors. It legitimizes prejudice and corruption, distorts memory, and generates anger and rifts….

Most of all, this book explains how all of us can learn to own up and let go of the need to be right, and learn from the times we are wrong—so that we don't keep making the same mistakes over and over again.”  Click here for more information and to listen to some superb interviews with the authors.
See also: MCA Resource Update(April 2012)especially the links for quotes related to character and organizational health from Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor (Bennis et al.) and the 20-minute TED Talk on The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Become Evil(Phil Zimbardo).
The Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania has a fascinating Authentic Happiness website. It offers free self-assessment tools, many related to character, which can be done after registering online confidentially. Examples: The Brief Strengths Test measures 24 character strengths (with the related VIA versions for adults and children) and the Compassionate Love Scale measures the tendency to understand, help, and support other people. Click here to see the list of 24 character strengths developed by Peterson and Seligman, organized in terms of six categories of virtue (Wisdom and Knowledge, Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance, and Transcendence).

Final Thought
Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate.
For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.
James 1:12,The Message

The rainbow after the storm. Hi from France, 21 June 2012.

Copyright © 2012 Member Care Associates, Inc.

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