Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Trouble With Being Virtuous (Part 1)

Upon reflection of this post's title you are most likely to think, "What's wrong with being virtuous?" In fact my treatise is focused on the phrase "trouble with being" and not so much the word "virtuous."

Integrity, honesty, charity, humility and the like are universally accepted as correct and right. It is not my intention to challenge in any way their rightness. My thoughts are on the processes of becoming these virtues. One might be tempted to say, "All you need do is discipline the creature and bend it through iron will and then you will have these virtues." However, a stick bug, though it may through sheer determination, focus and camouflage have the appearance of a stick, it is still an insect. So it is with us. We do not become something simply out of sheer force of will.

You become something by giving yourself over to it. Living for it. Each breath you take echoes an aching desire to become it. You learn to love and cherish it. Not despise it, struggle with it, and force yourself to fit the pre-conceived mold. You learn about it, understand it, and yes, you work at doing the virtue to learn how it feels to be the virtue without actually being the virtue.

Just because I show charity in one small moment to a less-fortunate person, does not mean I am suddenly charit-able. If I readily accept rebuke or learn from anothers' hand for a short period of time does not mean I am humble. An act of patience does not mean in all instances I am patient. By learning, loving, and employing the virtue, over time you begin to become the virtue.

The ironic thing is, once you begin to become the virtue your are striving to live you don't notice any difference. It is who you are. Ingrained in you and written upon the fleshy tablets of your heart. If one were to admiringly point out your patience, you would openly say, "Oh no, not me, I have a long way to go." Knowing of course perfect patience, in this life, is not possible. And that only through trial and error, love for the virtue, and continued application, have you become a small partaker of the virtue, such that those around you take notice.

This now brings us to the trouble with being virtuous. Firstly, as we begin to become the virtue we seek we don't notice any difference for it is our homeostatic state. The virtue begins to become second nature to us, much like a fish in water. The other problem we ask ourselves is this. If the virtue is right, and if there is a God who wants us to become these virtues, why are they not then simply handed to us for the asking? Shouldn't we be able to drive up to Virtues-R-Us hand pick the very best, in true sincerity of heart, of course, and then be able to live these virtues openly to bless all mankind?

If all the world were just one virtue. Honesty. Imagine all the corrupt business owners, liars, fraud committers, schemers, stealers and the like instantly disappearing in favor of a more delightful being. One who is honest in ALL aspects and walks of life. Why then are we not simply blessed with these virtues in order to live in greater peace and harmony with each other?

This is part one in a two part article. Your comments and insight are not only welcomed, but greatly encouraged. What do you think?

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