(An excerpt from Cultivating Love: Growing Character by Dr Ken McGill)
Cultivating Love Growing Character is the fifth book in the Cultivating Love series and is actually a revised excerpt from Cultivating Love Renewal (Book 1), Cultivating Love Finishing Strong (Book 3) and Cultivating Love When Secrets Surface (Book 4).
Growing Character is released as a “stand alone” version for the very reason it is included in the other books: regardless of the issues that we may struggle with in life and in our relationships (communication, infidelity, parenting issues, addictions, etc.) character growth is an essential part of our personal development and it is the application of our character values that leads us to the fruitful resolution of most of those issues.
Like the other books in the Cultivating Love series, Growing Character is based on the principle of Phytoremediation. Phytoremediation is an environmentally sound technology (EST) in which plants are used to remove, detoxify or immobilize environmental contaminants that are in the soil and in the water. Plants belonging to the Cruciferae family work the best. These particular plants are named and are a part of this family because they have a corolla of four petals arranged like a cross. Once again, God shows us that the process of restoring and remediating health, healing and safety to our environment (whether we start in our head, or in the garden of our relationships) is done through the work on the Cross (Colossians 1:16–20). So how does this personal and relational “clean up” process happen?
In this workbook, you will have the opportunity to “remediate” or “heal your land” by identifying areas of your life or marriage that need growth and development, fruitfulness and edification. Based on your self-discovery, you’ll have the opportunity to select from over 400 “Positive Values” or “seeds” to plant in the soil of your heart which when developed, will help you to become a fruitful, mature and productive human being. The cultivation of your values creates healing agents in your life and marriage when they are intentionally and strategically developed. Remediation occurs when you live by the values that you cultivate within your head and heart and practice these values with the “neighbors” in your life (i.e., spouse, family members, workplace).
Keep in mind (no pun intended) the seeds that are planted in the soil serve a function: to heal the soil and/or to produce some form of fruitful behavior to edify you. Why is this important? Because all behavior has a function as well. For the most part you or your spouse may be engaging in some behavior as an attempt to meet some very legitimate and very important intimacy needs that you have. However, although your intimacy needs are valid and important, some seeds (character values) will yield very effective and rewarding behavioral outcomes that help, heal and edify you, while other seeds (character defects) will yield maladaptive behaviors and losing strategies that only serve to complicate or sabotage your ability to meet your needs. So if you want to be edified, nourished and healed, you are encouraged to make sure you plant the appropriate seed in your mind and in your heart, because you will grow something!
Which brings us to our final point: There is more work to be done as we work with our Higher Power to identify and remove character defects and shortcomings. This is important because negative and damaging “character defects” are like “weeds” in the garden of your life, that not only inhibit your growth potential but tend to bring consequence and possibly damage to you and your relationships if they are not eliminated. So the additional work you may need to do is to eliminate the weed-like behavior so you could use the same space in your heart and mind to cultivate, develop and grow positive character values. I suggest to you that this is probably the best use of your energy (growing character), versus the misuse of your energy (complaining about, but doing nothing to remove your own character defects, or even worse, attributing or projecting your defects of character onto others).
Your process of transformation begins on the next page, as you will become familiar with the 7 Core Areas (Spiritual, Cognitive, Emotional, Physical/Biological, Sexual, Social/Relational and Environmental) of your life. These core areas are the “rows” in your life/garden that you will want to do daily work in for the rest of your lives, because it is in each of these core areas where you will produce character growth that will change, heal and grow you and others.
The Cultivating Love via Character Growth “Primer” reminds you of the intention that God has had in mind for you from the beginning: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). The exercise also helps you to identify and know how much God loves you, and to have this manifestation of love deeply influence how you see yourself, how you deliver love to yourself and subsequently deliver loving behaviors to others in your life as well.
The Character Growth via Values Clarification identify and define many of the positive character values that when cultivated, will produce life-giving/affirming behaviors, but also will identify and define many negative character defects that if allowed to proliferate could impede, sabotage or extinguish growth opportunities in our lives. Additional tools and questionnaires are provided to measure and track growth (How will I know I am growing?” and “Be ‘SMART’ about your Growth”) and to assist you in your endeavor to be intentional and productive personally and relationally.
Finally, three Appendices are also included (#1: “Cultivating Love: A Process to Change, Heal and Grow,” #2: “Practical Advice prior to “breaking the soil” with the Cultivating Love Exercises” and #3: Choices: Find Yourself) to illuminate processes and strategies to help you become successful in your work. May God richly bless you in your endeavor to grow character!
Dr. Ken McGill