Here’s a character challenge for the new year

Published 12:58 pm Friday, January 6, 2017

A couple of calendars back I read of a woman who chooses a word each January to help frame her attitude for the coming 12 months.

Once, her word was “acceptance.”

Most recently it was “completion.”

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“Completion of one task at a time,” she wrote, explaining her choice. “Completion of professional goals. Completion of finding lost family members.”

Completion is a big word with all sorts of implications, but it’s challenge is clear. And I like the idea of a one-word goal rather than a 10-point resolution. It’s difficult, yet doable. A big target, with plenty of opportunities for practice.

So I’m mixing it up a bit.

If you were to pick a character trait as your focus for 2017, what would it be?

(If you’re not sure what a character trait is, let me assure you that you already have quite a few – probably both good and bad. Just ask your family.)

The goal here is to acquire positive ones, like say, dependability, which means you do what you’ve said you would do even if it involves discomfort. Get the idea?

“Hmmm,” mulled a 20-year-old when I presented her with the trait-for-the-year challenge. “Probably sincerity. I don’t want my words and actions to be superficial.”

A young mom on my survey list chose being efficient. “I’d like to be like the Proverbs 31 woman – well-organized, competent, and resourceful. Then I could make the most of my time.”

“Diligence,” came one quick text reply. “So I can be a good steward of what God has entrusted to me.”

My sister-in-law claimed determination as hers – a determination to accomplish some personal goals. 

Others selected contentment (“because who doesn’t want to be content with their life, not constantly wanting more or something different?”) and faithfulness (“the faithful-to-the-end, Revelation 2:10 kind”).

It was patience for a near-newlywed, who says she needs to practice it with her husband as he does things his own way, in his own time. Ultimately, she says she needs to practice patience with God: “I need to understand that my way and my time are not what He’s worried about.”

Patience was also the pick for someone on the other end of the marital spectrum – 30 plus years and going strong: “For some reason, I find that I’m less patient as I grow older. It requires not taking offense so easily,” she wrote. 

“Being gentle and quiet (as in the verse from 1 Peter),” shared one responder, but she was disqualified for choosing two.

Just kidding.

Here’s what a busy mom of eight wrote about the trait of kindness: “I desire that in my tongue would be found the law of kindness. Who doesn’t love a person who is kind and slow to wrath? I want to set the example of kindness in my home and towards my children. I don’t want to find myself being sweeter to others than to the ones I love more than life itself.” 

A faraway friend, who apparently has the honesty trait down, pleaded the fifth. “So many need attention,” she confessed. “I’ll have to get back to you.”

She eventually did, finally landing on “selflessness”.

“I want to do things for others in need, without expecting something in return,” she told me.

And then there was a mom who said she wanted to work on self-control. “I want to be able to let go of the small things and not sweat it. I want to be slow to react and less likely to go from 0-60 on the angry scale.”

“I would like to be more hospitable,” said another. “It doesn’t come naturally for me. I was born and raised in Mississippi. I don’t know what happened.” 

Sincerity. Efficiency. Patience. Selflessness. I could certainly profit by accepting any of these traits as my 2017 project, but I’m still thinking. What’s best for this year in particular?

(My husband would probably suggest I consider “punctuality.”)

So again I ask: If you were to pick one character trait as your focus for 2017, what would it be?

You. One life-changing character trait. Zero in. What would it be?

Kim Henderson is a writer in Wesson. She can be reached at