Things Captain America Can Teach Us

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I’ve been listening to David by Chuck Swindoll. The first chapter is about what God looks for in David, which is character – being the same person in private as in public: reliable, honest, wholesome. David is responsible because tending sheep has made him so; he handled the little things in life with integrity, which makes him capable of handling the big things later in his life. His faith is genuine because it goes beneath the surface. Satan, or as my pastor calls him, “Old Smutty Face,” doesn’t want our faith to be anything other than superficial – faith on the surface alone helps no one, implements no inner change, and doesn’t connect us to God.

So, what does any of this have to do with Captain America? He’s a man of character. He’s the same Steve at home, as he is at work. He’s consistent. He’s loyal to a value system and cause, rather than to an establishment. He doesn’t compromise, and when he sees that the system he is working for has become corrupt and lacks character, he has the strength to admit it, fight against it, and defeat it – because as a man of integrity, he believes in standing up for what he actually believes in, in this case, freedom.

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Steve won’t change for anyone, including Natasha. He resists all her attempts to influence him even in smaller things, he doesn’t approve of her “secondary missions” or tendency to look after herself, and he keeps her in line when they do work together. Steve is incorruptible, because he is utterly confident in who he is, what he believes, and in his true purpose. He has character. Like David, he proved himself faithful in the little things, so others knew he could be trusted with “big” things. David had to defeat lions before he could kill Goliath; he had to gain life experience from living in reality. Steve’s reality was dealing with bullies and doing what he believed was right even when it earned him mockery and condemnation. He was the scrawniest kid in the lineup but he still threw himself on a grenade to save the others. He fought hard to be accepted and now everyone accepts him – but he isn’t corrupted through his newfound strength, because he formed integrity (or character) as a weakling first.

Natasha is a different story from Steve, but also symbolic of a life under transformation. She’s walked away from parts of her old life (her former alliances), but not all of it; she still plays fast and loose with rules and morality. She’s like the superficial believer who isn’t quite ready to let God peek into the darker parts of their life and take away their old ways. Worse, she enjoys trying to corrupt Steve whenever she can (when teasing him about stealing a car, he retorts that it’s not stealing, it’s borrowing, and he intends to return it in just as good of condition as he found it). But Steve is having an impact on her. She can’t change his values, which earns him her respect, and his integrity starts rubbing off on her, to the point where she decides the bigger goal is worth sacrificing her own identity. She spills her secrets right along with all the other secrets, because it’s the right thing to do. And that, for her, is a milestone. That’s the point where she admits who she truly was, and starts to become the woman she’s meant to be. Admission is key to change – you must know who you were, and fess up to it, before you can truly change.

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God wants us to have character. He wants us to be like Steve – firm in our convictions and incorruptible by external forces. He wants us focused more on Him than the influences of the world, to hold to our values even when it earns us scorn. He wants us to have integrity. Many of us try to hide our past, or our sins, because we’re ashamed of them, but the first step toward character is admitting our faults. The past is only important if we learn from it – like David, and Steve. We should use life experiences to gain wisdom and learn from mistakes, but we only have this moment – the past is gone, and we may not have a future, so what matters most is right now and whether or not we’re showing character through our actions.

True character is built up over a lifetime, but if we start out with a strong foundation of integrity, it’s an easier process. Steve has had a long, hard path to reach this point in his life, and he has further trials and tests to go, but as a man of character, his integrity will see him through.

22 Replies to “Things Captain America Can Teach Us”

  1. I’m a Captain America fan, too, and really loved seeing his story unfold. I have not seen *Winter Soldier*, nor Ultron, so I’m not sure how Cap’s story continues. Of all the Avengers, he’s the one I’d pick in a pinch. I admit I like watching Tom Hiddleston play Loki, but you can only call his character ‘bad.’ Keep Natasha w/ Steve. She strikes me as someone who might ‘turn’ very quickly unless he keeps her straight. It takes time to build character, and she needs more (around him) to cement her goodness. She’s very intriguing, and who knows how the writers will develop her. (Pinging off the David reference, might she be his Bathsheba? Hmmm.) Thor has a good heart; if I remember the myth, his temper is closer to Hulk’s, though doesn’t do as much damage. Let’s have more real heroes. Gene Wolfe once told me that good people are more interesting than evil ones. I’m sure villains are fun for actors, but anyone can chew scenery. Takes a subtle guy to portray good character.:-)

  2. Steve inspires me to be the best ISFJ I can possibly be. He doesn’t hide away his values for fear they might hurt or offend someone. He’s always honest, and his integrity runs throughout every single element of his being. Looking at myself, I know that I am not yet a woman of strong character. I let other people influence me and my decisions, my beliefs. But i don’t want to be that way, and that’s the first step towards change. I want to be responsible and trustworthy like Steve, worthy of the respect people give me, bearing their challenges and secrets in confidence and offering support and compassion. I want to be incorruptible.

    I watched a short video clip at a meeting last week from a guy who spoke at the Willow Creek Leadership Conference last year. The lady who introduced him focused on how very much she wanted to be like Christ, And to be like Christ we find someone who embodies his qualities on earth. She said that perhaps being like Christ is taking the first step to being more like the man she was introducing, a man she respects as a strong Christian leader and influence. She wants to be like him, and by being like him, more like Christ. That’s how I feel about Steve. If I can be more like him, incorruptible and a person of character, then I’m really reaching to be more like Christ. We find role models in life that remind us of Christ. That’s Steve Rogers for me, the best of us. Man, I wish he was real.

    1. I don’t think that a role model has to be real, so long as he or she is realistic. Considering how much emotion fictional characters elicit from us, they are as real to our imagination as if they truly existed, so looking up to one as the iconic representation of the person you would like to be seems perfectly reasonable.

      Sadly, I don’t know that I have a role model, fictional or otherwise, although I do admire C.S. Lewis a good deal. He endured quite a lot with long-suffering patience and humility, two things I admire but that don’t come easily to me.

      1. My role models are all men. Two from real life and, of course, Steve. I’m not really sure that long-suffering patience and humility come easy to anyone, really. Except maybe humility, but then if you say, “Oh, I’m great at humility,” you’re not really being humble. All I know is that praise makes me uncomfortable and I would rather the spotlight be focused somewhere else. Even if I’ve done something well, tell me thank you, and then move on. Don’t put me on the spot in front of a group of people.

        One of the things I relate to the most with Steve is when he admits that he doesn’t know what he likes to do. That is so true! I can list probably on one hand the number of things I like to do, and then only because I’ve forced myself to give it some thought. Most of the time I focus on what others want, not me, so when someone asks, I honestly don’t have an answer that isn’t boring like reading or crocheting. I like those things, but they’re not something you pop off with in a conversation with peers because it makes you sound uninteresting and dull. I’m not dull, but I don’t know how to express that to other people through my interests because I only know the barest minimum of what I might like to do. What I do for others in my work and at home defines me so completely that my own interests feel foreign. One of the hazards of being an ISFJ.

        1. I don’t know that I have any role models… well, maybe Samantha Carter but only in the sense that she’s brilliant but also kind. I’m so analytical that I can see the flaws in anything and anyone, which makes it hard to idolize them.

          Most people’s hobbies are dull. Gardening is dull. Reading is dull unless you’re the one doing it. Unless you happen to rescue baby seals on weekends or like skydiving, you ought not to worry about your hobbies being dull, because everyone’s hobbies are dull. 😛

  3. When Natasha first appeared in Iron Man 2, I hated her. I’ll admit it. She seemed to be the stereotypical “hot chick in a guy’s movie”, which of course fueled my hatred of her character. However, after watching Avengers, she began to intrigue me, and after seeing Cap 2, she has become one of my favorite Avengers (Thor will always be first in my heart 😀 ).

    On a side note…am I the only one who wants to know what the Budapest reference between Clint and Natasha in Avengers was all about???? Personally, I want an Marvel movie about them. 🙂

    1. Why is Thor your favorite?

      I always liked Natasha, probably because I’ve grown up with a feminist bent and as a result, I always like to see kick-ass heroines (or anti-heroines, as the case may be) in guy movies. I’d rather watch a heroine than a hero. 🙂

      No, I suspect you’re not the only one who’d like an answer to that question! All the Clint/Natasha fans would totally be on board with a movie about them.

      1. Thor is my favorite Avenger because 1) I’ve always been fascinated by mythology 2) I appreciate his character development 3) his movie was more sci-fi than straight up superhero and 4) he reminds me of a character from my novels. Bruce Banner would probably be my second favorite, due to his angst. Maybe this is horrible, but I love watching angst in characters…

  4. Just watched this last night–so good. I completely agree with you. Integrity, honesty, love of truth, compassion, no compromise, self sacrifice–it’s these virtues that makes his character so winsome.
    I’m actually reading a book right now (our school staff is reading it as part of our professional development) called Virtuous Minds by Philip E. Dow, about intellectual character and the need for Christians to foster integrity and honesty and intellectual courage. The author argues that intellectual character (all the virtues you outline above) is just as important as moral character–you need both to truly live out your Christian walk. I see Steve as embodying both these types of character.

    1. That sounds like a great book! I’ll have to put it on my to read list! I think that if you can establish intellectual character, it spreads out into every aspect of your life. You can’t change the outside and not the inside and have it last — but if you change the inside (your mind) your external actions shift. That’s why some people, when they obtain salvation, change so much externally — it’s a reflection of what Christ has done in their heart and mind. 🙂

  5. I just loved the movie. I love Steve’s character. His story is one of the best. It’s just simple and good–he’s such a truly good person. And the comparison between him and David is very good–and I especially liked Natasha’s story arc too. All round, this movie was a challenge for the characters, a proving ground to how they would hold true. Excellently done really. Can’t wait until the movie comes out on dvd!

    1. I like Steve very much. It is so rare to get a hero of true integrity in any franchise — usually the “good guys” aren’t that different from the villains in terms of morality or selfishness, so it’s nice to find a genuinely selfless hero once in awhile.

  6. Excellent post! Your perspective on this is awesome – as usual. It made me happy to see that scene when Natasha went ahead with their plan to put a corrupt S.H.I.E.L.D. out of service because there was that split second moment when you thought she would be tempted to change her mind, and instead because of what she saw Steve fighting to protect – how far they’d (Steve, Natasha, Falcon, Fury, Hill) all come bucking a corrupt organization – and preserve, she went the extra mile and along with everyone else, the result was revealing her own carefully guarded secrets. (All this talk about the epic Marvel heroes is making me want to rewatch those films Natasha is in! :D)

    Well said.

    1. Natasha is starting to embrace a larger focus than merely her own best interests, which is Steve’s belief system rubbing off on her. I think she believes herself to be selfish, but at her core — she is much more compassionate and protective toward society than she cares to admit.

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