Perspectives: How much can your character bench press?

OPINION – The looks on the faces of my family made it all worthwhile. I’ll never forget how their eyes popped open wide as I stepped off the airplane upon returning home from serving a mission for my church.

To say that I had changed a bit would be an understatement. The physical difference was most obvious.

Two years earlier, when I left for Oklahoma, I tipped the scales at a modest 135 pounds. By the time I returned home, I was at least 50 pounds heavier and none of it jiggled.

My transformation had started after I arrived in the mission field. While visiting with a friend who was a fitness coach, my companion and I were invited to lift weights.

I was embarrassed to find that I could not successfully bench-press a meager 135 pounds of weight.

That’s when I made the conscious decision to improve my strength and fitness in my spare time. I was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of a wrestler who made his weight room available to me.

Three times a week, I dragged myself out of bed at 5 am and spent an hour lifting weights. It didn’t take long to start seeing results.

I watched in amazement as my bench press steadily rose towards and then soared past 240 pounds. I bulked up to the point that I was constantly being asked if I played football.

My final two months, I was assigned to a companion who had been an acclaimed Cedar High wrestler. Knowing that I would be headed home soon, Elder Ackroyd mentored me into not just being strong but also being fit.

This meant a strict diet of healthy foods, no sugar or sodas, and stepping up my cardiovascular fitness by running and riding my bicycle more often.

By the time I returned home, I looked nothing like the skinny young man my family and friends remembered. The shock and surprise on their faces was worth every drop of sweat and every sacrifice that was required to make my transformation. It was immensely satisfying.

Since then, time and gravity have taken their toll. No one stays physically young and beautiful forever.

When I reflect on the effort and determination that was necessary to change myself, I remember that there are other essential qualities that require similar effort to develop.

I was reminded of this a few days ago when I read Lawrence W. Reed’s commentary “Honest When No One is Looking“.

Reed relates an experience when he traveled to Cambodia some years ago and was asked to deliver cash donations to some desperately needy families there. The money had been donated by family members who had fled the Khmer Rouge years earlier and settled in the U.S.

These families had attempted to mail cash to their impoverished loved ones but the cash always failed to reach them.

Reed was able to visit and deliver the cash to all but one of the families on his list. He knew the name of the remaining family and the city in which they lived. But he did not know how to find them.

On a hunch, Reed approached a man in tattered clothes in the lobby of his hotel. He explained that he had an envelope with a cash donation for a very needy family in Battambang and asked the man if he could take the $200 to them.

The man said he could make the delivery and Reed told him to keep $50 for himself for his troubles.

Reed admits that he knew he was taking a big chance. He didn’t count on hearing anything more of the man or the donation.

Months later, when he was back at home in Michigan, Reed received an urgent phone message from the Cambodian family that had sent the money to their loved ones back home. They had just received a letter thanking them for the $200 that had reached them.

Not only had the man delivered the money without taking a dime for himself, he also had paid for his train ride to Battambang in order to find them. Whatever material wealth this man in tattered clothing lacked, he was clearly rich in personal character.

Reed explains what is meant by character when he writes:

Character means that there are no matters too small to handle the right way. It’s been said that your character is defined by what you do when no one is looking.

Too often we allow ourselves to be swayed by superficial outward appearances that mean nothing.

Working to develop and strengthen our qualities of honor, honesty, and moral clarity takes real and sustained effort. It will ultimately change us in ways that also change the world around us.

Bryan Hyde is a radio commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

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Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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6 Comments

  • anybody home June 15, 2015 at 10:04 am

    Great, Bryan. You managed to steal Reed’s story so you could blather on about your experience as a missionary and how you became physically fit and how great you looked when got off a plane. Good work. You showed a lot of character there. About two pounds worth. Reed’s story could have easily stood alone, but nooooooo, you had to swipe it and then just give it a nod at the end in the specious effort to link it to what you wanted to say about yourself. Yourself, Bryan. The irony is that Reed’s story was about a truly good person. Yours was about a narcissistic blowhard. If the point of this piece was about developing character, you should have read the directions more carefully yourself.

    • native born new mexican June 15, 2015 at 11:32 am

      Anybody home did you and I read the same article? I saw none of the things you tried to point out as flaws in the article. I was inspired by the article to keep trying to be a better person. I even felt a little more push to be careful about my diet and exercise. I got only good from the article. I guess it all depends on whether you are trying to improve yourself and learn something or whether you are looking for any opportunity you can to find fault with someone or something. I have often enjoyed a piece of music or a talk in church only to hear someone who usually has a negative view towards most things criticizing the very same music or talk. OH well!

      • anybody home June 15, 2015 at 12:27 pm

        I’m glad you got something that helped you from the article, but please NBNM, don’t put on the cloak of righteousness. I’ve read many a comment from you criticizing many things and other commenters. Let he/she who is without sin cast the first stone, baby.

    • NotSoFast June 15, 2015 at 12:36 pm

      Any body home, are you feeling OK? I suggest you look under your Bentley for missing nuts or perhaps your marbles. Oh, wait a minute, It’s Monday morning. My error. Forget my observations.

  • Brian June 15, 2015 at 10:17 am

    This is one way we’ve gone backwards as a nation: we don’t teach values and integrity anymore. I love how “America the Beautiful” puts it:

    “God mend thine every flaw”. Yes, we’re an imperfect, flawed nation, but if we turn to God He’ll turn our weaknesses into strengths.

    “Confirm thy soul in self-control”. Self-discipline and self-control are the key to the soul. Without them we’re lost.

    “[confirm] Thy liberty in law!”. We’re a nation of laws (or were), and without that we have no freedom. When people are above the law, because of position, skin color, immigration status, or connection, we’re in trouble. We’re in trouble!

    “Till all success be nobleness, and every gain divine!”. In other words, success isn’t success unless it was done nobly, and gain is pointless unless it brings us closer to God.

    I have those lines make me sad every time I sing that song, but it gives me hope to keep teaching the youth. That’s one of the reasons I’ve always been involved in Scouting, and why the recent statements by Robert Gates suck so bad. They weren’t made based on values or integrity, they were made based on legal and financial expediency. The boys are supposed to show integrity, but the BSA leadership? Apparently not.

  • KarenS June 15, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Excellent article, Mr. Hyde!

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