A tombstone in a small English village reads,
“Here lies a miser who lived for himself, And cared for nothing but gathering wealth. Now where he is or how he fares, Nobody knows and nobody cares.”
In contrast, a plain tombstone in the courtyard at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London reads, “Sacred is the memory of Charles George Gordon, who at all times and everywhere, gave his strength to the weak, his substance to the poor, his sympathy to the suffering, his heart to God.”
Two different individuals, but one was a person of substance.
What is a person of substance? I am talking about a person who influences others in positive ways. A person of substance is an individual who has depth, inner character. A person of substance wants to grow and to improve himself. A person of substance does not attempt to be something she is not.
The opposite would a shallow person. (Don’t misunderstand me. Every person on planet earth is valuable and has worth because people are made in the image of God. See Genesis 1:26-27). By shallow, though, I mean a person who focuses on trivial things, too concerned about being flashy. A shallow person devotes time and energy to showing off. Often, a shallow person wants to be sexy and trashy, wishing to be eye candy instead of soul food. In other words, there is no substance, or depth, to one’s life. A shallow person is like a colorful balloon—he or she looks pretty on the outside but is all air on the inside. Shallow people give in to laziness, make excuses, and play the victim. As one person has described it, a person without substance is just loud, but has no melody.
So, what can we do to become people of substance?
- Live by moral standards and values. These qualities build needed boundaries into your life, and serve like guard rails on a highway. High moral standards and values prevent you from veering off course, and from hurting others and yourself.
- Set goals continuously. People of substance have goals such as additional schooling, wise money management, keeping up with technology, purchasing a home, getting into shape, improving parenting skills, traveling, learning more about the Bible, and a thousand other goals. When you have goals you give direction to your life. Instead of you settling for the “same old, same old,” your life begins to take off.
- Be a lifelong learner. I am not talking about spending your whole life in a classroom. But I do believe we should view our entire life as an education—we should be ever-learning, every moment of time, everywhere, and in all circumstances. Did you know that about 33% of adults have not read a book since high school? (This fact comes from the Statistic Brain Research Institute.) Our world is changing, so we must be constant learners just to keep up. Don’t allow yourself to become a person who prefers sound bites and videos to actual reading and reflection.
- Live a consistent life. One dictionary definition of substance is “a particular kind of matter with uniform properties.” Are you a person with ‘uniform properties’? Do you live as the same person, no matter who you’re with, or what you’re doing? Does your Sunday morning self match up with your Friday night self? Can people depend on your? Do you keep your promises?
- Build effective relationships with people. Every person need not be your best friend, chum, pal, or your deepest confidante. But every relationship you have should be built upon the foundations of love, respect, trust, and honor. When you have effective relationships with others you are “there” for people when they need you. You give to others more than you desire to receive from others.
- Believe God can do powerful things in your life and in the lives of others. When you have a radical faith (1) you pray fervently because you believe God really does answer prayers; (2) you step out of your comfort zone and trust God to equip you for the task; (3) you influence people in positive ways; and (4) you see the lessons in your adverse circumstances.
I believe that striving to be a person of substance builds hope into our lives—the hope of stronger and deeper relationships, the hope of being sincere and real, the hope of living with integrity, and the hope of knowing that God is at work in your life.
Order my new book, Every Day Can Be a Great Day: Convincing Promises from Psalm 34, from Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com. Paperback or E-book.