Character > Competence

At Michael Swindell Coaching I partner with Christian leaders in many realms of work who are seeking to clarify their unique, God-given identity and confidently live out their unique, God-given mission. Yet, one premise I have in coaching is that character is always more important than competence. Why? Because the Bible tells me so.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8 says this: 

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails.”

In other words love > works. Or, character > competence. 

Now, this is a distinction we are making here, not a profound either-or scenario. You can work competently with loving motivations. You can grow in character as you work hard at your craft When your boss asks you to work overtime on a critical project, it is possible to both be competent while you love her by putting in the extra effort. 

When I was a pastor in Chicagoland, I came to realize that my effective competence in preaching and teaching was critical in loving the church members. If I was unclear from the pulpit or the small group, how were they going to learn and grow in their knowledge of God? It certainly would not be loving to "love them" by poor pedagogy. I disciplined my preparation and delivery as an act of love.

And yet, if I preach the greatest sermons since Spurgeon, or write the greatest systematic theology since Calvin, or plant more churches than John Wesley...but have not love...then I have gained nothing. It is possible to grow in competence, but not in love. It is possible to be excellence and apathetic, ambivalent or even malignant. 

So, my guess is that you want to grow in your competence to fulfill the work God has given you. But, are you also intentionally growing in your character? Do you also realize that you need just as much attention and focus given to character development as skill set development?

How can you grow in your character?

One idea is this: pick a fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 and pray daily this simple prayer: 

Father in Heaven, empower me by your Spirit to glorify Christ by growing in [insert fruit of the Spirit]. Amen.

Here are the fruits: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Not sure what these fruits really entail? Buy "Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit" by Christopher J.H. Wright. You can do that now by clicking HERE.

The truth is that the world will tell you integrity is important and then proceed to inundate you with leadership article after leadership article that focuses on goals, leadership and decision-making. Yet, in God's kingdom, it's not the efficient in heart that will see the kingdom nor the the ones who hunger and thirst for strategic decision-making who will be filled. 

May we let go of our anxious impulse to improve (Improve IMPROVE) at work. Let us hold fast to the grace of God and grow in Christlikeness.

Need help? Find out how a coaching relationship with me can help you grow in your love for the Lord even as you clarify your unique mission by going to