An Old Man, Death, and Your Character

There are a lot of things in life that you can’t control no matter how hard you try. When it comes to things like weather, politics, crime, or sometimes even your own destiny, you might be completely powerless. But there is one thing that you will always be able to control, and it’s the most important: whether or not you’re a virtuous man.

A few years ago, I remember hearing a story about an old man who lived in a small Mexican village. At first glance, he would’ve probably seemed uninteresting. He wasn’t married, owned no property, had no education during his lifetime – but he didn’t let those things prevent him from doing what he knew in his heart was right.

The old man always wanted to be on the side of the angels. He would never let anything slide… ever. If he felt he had taken advantage of someone else, he would apologize and set things straight immediately even if it was inconvenient for him. A neighbor finally asked him why he always went out of his way to deal with trifles. The old man’s response was clear and powerful: “My word and my character are all that I have, and I’ll be damned if I lose control of ’em before I die.”

It’s easy to feel powerless in this big world. It’s even easier to just give up. But no matter what happens, your character is something only you control. Even if the other parts of your life suck, whether you go to your grave a virtuous man or not depends entirely on you.

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