Discipline requires diligent practice. Pressures reveal our progress in achieving this discipline. This week attractive ESPN reporter Britt McHenry was caught on a security camera as she unleashed a tirade of demeaning and arrogant insults to a woman employee of the company who had towed away her car for a parking infraction. Her tirade included rude remarks about the woman’s intelligence, the lowly job that she had, her weight, her missing teeth and her lack of education (http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/16/us/espn-reporter-britt-mchenry-tirade/)
Although the 28-year old reporter subsequently apologized she clearly doesn’t understand the dynamics of good character. To develop a good character requires discipline and a consistent habit of making the right choices over a long period of time, even under difficult circumstances. This is particularly true of our need to control what we say. James suggested that the tongue is probably the most difficult member of our body to control. In fact he suggests that the person who is able to control his or her tongue is doing very well (James 1:26). That’s also what Jesus taught, it’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, it’s what comes out of their mouth (Matthew 15:11).
Miss McHenry’s public tirade placed her in a very bad public light and ESPN decided to suspend her services for one week. However her public apology the next day reveals a further conceptual error, one that many people often make. She blamed her lack of displaying good character on intense stress, frustration and the pressures that her job was placing her under. But as we have suggested, character is formed by making good choices over time. Extreme pressures do not create a bad character. These pressures simply reveal the extent to which we have succeeded in internalizing moral principles and developing a good character. Pressures and difficult times simply reveal to those who are watching to what extent we have succeeded in developing a good character. External pressure is like striking an unlabeled container with enough force that it causes it to break open and spill out its contents. When the container breaks we are able to see what was inside: something like nutritious farm grown honey, or toxic waste that could be a radiation threat. The strike does not produce the contents of the container, it simply reveals what’s inside!
In this young reporter’s case, the pressures of her glamorous and public life revealed a significant lack of internalized character development. Her comments reveal a sense of pride and privilege. Her words are condescending and cruel. This is something she needs to confess and begin to work on. It would be a tragedy if her considerable public talents go to waste because she was unable to control a toxic, undisciplined character.
For us, this embarrassing experience of a public figure ought to spur us toward pursuing true discipleship in our own character. Discipline requires diligent practice. The inevitable knocks of life will sooner or later reveal to what extent we have succeeded in developing the character of Christ in our lives.