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Character Development + Compassion Decreases Anxiety

Character Development+Compassion Decreases Anxiety

Back to school energy evokes an energy of excitement. That experience of excitement is felt, perceived and expressed differently in each person.

There is the energy of anticipation inherent in approaching a new situation. For some, school is a known quantity. It is simply a matter of entering another grade level. If you are returning to the same school, chances are you will have a felt sense of security in knowing the environment, the classmates and the teachers. For others, it will be a first time experience with the unknown factors looming as large as the shadows on the wall at night. They may appear bigger than they are in reality and shadows are inherently scary because they are not well defined images.

Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension, of being out of your element, not on solid ground, fearful of what may happen. Anxiety predisposes us to a heightened sense of insecurity. A state of overthinking can develop that can lead to thoughts intruding in areas of your concentration which can affect listening effectively and learning/processing information. When one is in a state of anxiety, the feelings of disorganization predominate and it feels hard to ground yourself.

How can character development decrease anxiety? The concept of character is an aggregate of a variety of attributes that make up a person’s individuality. Attributes of good character include compassion, empathy, courage, fortitude, honesty and loyalty, good behaviors and habits. In my understanding of living, the most important goal you could hope to accomplish in the course of your life is to become an excellent person with a clear vision, in every respect and a compassionate regard for your fellow citizens. Your purpose should be to develop the mind of personality and character that earns you the respect, esteem, and affection of the important people in your world.

When you think and act from a moral high ground, you decrease the possibility of anxiety born from the lower ground of fear and unknowing. You DO know the right thing to say and how to act responsibly. You DO have clear vision of situations from a perspective grounded in attributes of good character.

Character development is learned. It is taught by modeling behaviors of people we respect. It is taught by leaders in society.

It is taught by teachers.

First and foremost, it is taught by parents.

I spoke with a Rockaway resident whose work in our community speaks volumes about the value and the necessity of building character. She is active in sports coaching at West End Temple with the girls volleyball team. Team play is fertile ground for character development and Marie McGoldrick Raico is masterful at being true to her values in teaching . She values being firm in purpose, and in the setting of rules and standards. She teaches students to advocate for themselves. She’s a coach. Marie believes that Love is the basis. “In the right atmosphere I can be challenged and I want to be challenged because that shows me that you can think for yourself. We are a team. You are not a good teacher if you are not learning as much from them as they do from you,” Marie told me.

‘If we all concentrated more on believing that developing character from birth is our most important goal in parenting, we would see a pendulum shift. I’m a person of my word. I have to follow through. We make excuses for lack of character. It’s about not accepting responsibility. Character starts individually, “ Marie continued . “Good character can change the world or lack thereof can have the opposite effect.”

Her parenting skills are evident in this photo evidencing how she prepared her son , Luke, for his first day of school .

Congratulations, Luke Raico, for the courage to model compassionate action!

A challenge to holding the line for parents with the desire to encourage character traits in their children is the emotion of guilt. It is easy to wonder : Am I putting too much expectations on them? When you take a step back and truly challenge this thought, the answer becomes obvious. Empathy, kindness, compassion are innate. Spiritual traditions name and honor these. Contemplative practices cultivate them through the power of Silence,prayer and meditation.

It is taught by spiritual communities.

As an Ordained Interfaith Minister, we gather at my Independent Church , Spirit of Love ~The Rockaway Sangha, every Sunday 10-11am to cultivate virtue, wisdom and meditative awareness, the character strengths that will alleviate suffering

The effects of character formation and decreasing anxiety are well researched as a benefit of Mindfulness Meditation . The non-denominational practice of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is simple and portable . This means you can take it wherever you go and access it whenever you need to decrease and actually eliminate anxiety .

All are welcome.


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