Virtuous or Comfortable

You work hard during the day, and what do you want to do when you get home?

You work hard during the week, and what is it that you want to do on the weekend?

The most common answer would be to relax. It would be to take it easy, maybe watch some television. Sometimes, that is all I can think about. I just want to get home, put on some comfortable clothes, crack open a beer, and chill out. The ordinary person would say this is all right. They would say it is deserved, that we all need a break. And maybe, to some extent, they are right. A break is needed.

The superior man thinks always of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort. -Confucius

I think of the superior man. That is what I want to be, but how will I get there? There are some out there that seem to never stop. They find the time to stay in top shape. Professionally, they work hard. They volunteer. They…well this list could keep going on.

What do they not do? They probably don’t think how they can coast. They don’t think about how they can just relax because they deserve it. Whether they realize it or not, they think of virtue, rather than comfort.

The four cardinal virtues:

Prudence. This is wisdom. The superior person is always chasing wisdom. They are seeking knowledge and applying understanding to the things they have learned. They are not passively passing the time watching TV.

Temperance. You can call it discipline. It is the sharpening of the mind and the body. It is not giving in to the easy or comfortable way. Like the tempering of steel, they are doing the hard things consistently so that they too can become hardened.

Justice. They do the right thing. They listen to their conscience and act accordingly. They live their lives in private the same way they live it in public.

Courage. Courage comes easily when you have wisdom, discipline, and justice. When you are shaky in these other virtues, the courage wanes and becomes fool hardy. But through the strengthening of the other virtues, what some would call the greatest of virtues, courage, is possible.

Courage is the greatest of all the virtues. Because if you haven’t courage, you may not have an opportunity to use any of the others. –Samuel Johnson

We need courage to practice the others. We need the others to practice courage. They work together and none of it can be achieved in comfort. Take a break if you need to by switching gears between work and study. Develop your ability to last longer, go harder, and delve deeper. Practice the virtues and become superior. It is a fierce competition out there to become better than we were yesterday.

Clear the Malfunction

One of the acronyms I will never forget from the Army is SPORTS.

Slap

Pull

Observe

Release

Tap

Squeeze

When your weapon jams up, you apply SPORTS to clear the malfunction. Practice SPORTS enough times, and it becomes second nature. You won’t even forget it twenty years later.

Why do soldiers practice it so much? In the heat of battle, you need to make quick decisions. In a fire fight, the last thing you need is a malfunction. When your weapon system goes down, you can’t call a time-out to analyze the situation. You need to be able to get back up and running as quick as possible, and that is why you perform an automatic action that doesn’t require thought.

Let philosophy scrape off your own faults, rather than be a way to rail against the fault of others. –Seneca

The great thing about making the study of truth, better known as philosophy, a daily practice is that it becomes second nature. If it is always in your mind, you are less likely to falter. And when you do falter, when you have the malfunction, you are quick the resolve the error. You are able to scrape off your faults.

What are my issues? I have a few, but one has recently come to the forefront. I spend a lot of time working on my problems. Equally, I do my best not to worry about the faults of others. This may be ideal on an individual level, but it often leaves me with the tendency to mentally isolate from the rest of the world. In my youth, I was quick to make inaccurate assessments of others based on first impressions and a narrow world view. As I got older, I tried to be less judgmental. That is good, but to some degree I became less empathetic towards the problems and needs of others. This is a problem that I am working on. Can I really put myself in someone’s shoes? Can I understand their pain, what they are going through?

Today, I am going to continue identifying areas in my life that need improvement. I am going to work on fixing those. I am going to seek the truth and allow it to work its miracles on me in the scraping off of my imperfections. I am going to clear the malfunction.

Wisdom. Courage. Justice. Discipline. Faith. Hope. Love. The virtues that make us better people are calling. Who will heed the call?

This is the very perfection of man, to find out his own imperfections. –St. Augustine

A Word with the Wise

One of my closest friends told me once to break down the barriers that are preventing me from walking my path.

A boss, who I despised and thought incompetent, once told me to control only what is in my control. The rest is out of my hands.

A dear aunt stated that a person’s energy can be seen only if I took the time to look for it.

Through the years there have been those moments when a slice of wisdom passed through another’s lips and took hold within me. Moments that were collected over a lifetime causing me to stop what I was doing and allow the words to be written upon my soul. Moments that molded me into who I am today and who I want to be tomorrow.

It is those moments I seek out, that my very soul longs for. To be blessed by another person freely sharing their wisdom is a gift. It is those gifts that elevates an individual to new heights. As Emerson said, “The best effect of fine persons is felt after we leave their presence.” Long after the conversation has ended, the wisdom remains.

I have read countless books and articles, enjoyed many lectures and podcasts, and viewed numerous instructional videos. The time slips by in study as progress inches along. But can any of them compare to the one-on-one conversations that bring about a greater understanding and a deeper sense of knowledge? In an instant the third eye opens and one wakes to a new light. In an instant, clarity, whereas before only confusion from merely scratching the surface.

A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study. –Chinese Proverb

Consider this Chinese proverb and how relates to all the virtues.

  • Prudence: Solomon said if you walk with the wise, you become wise (Proverbs 13:20). There is a power in having a mentor.
  • Temperance: We can make it a practice of having more meaningful conversations. We can spend less time talking about the weather and trivialities of current events.
  • Justice: This is the path of righteousness. Here we become better individuals and in turn improve the society around us.
  • Courage: To actively enter these conversations, we have to be bold. Not arrogant, but willing to expose our own inadequacies and learn from those farther along the path.
  • Faith: Can you see it? The destination up ahead? Visualize it and realize that you too can have this wisdom?
  • Hope: Dreams become reality, only if we pursue them and put in the work.
  • Charity: Freely they impart their knowledge to us. Freely we should do the same in return.

 

We can win in life through these virtues, and it starts with wisdom.

Strive For Good

We try and we fail to:

  • Stop making bad choices
  • Stop being lazy
  • Stop being dishonest
  • Stop giving up when times are tough
  • Stop being unfaithful
  • Stop being pessimistic
  • Stop being so selfish

It could be that our approach is wrong. Rather than trying to stop all the bad things we’re doing, and then beating ourselves up every time we fail, maybe we can attempt to put more “good” into our lives. We can start striving for the good and make it a daily practice. We can:

  • Seek wisdom
  • Be disciplined
  • Choose justice
  • Be courageous
  • Have faith
  • Maintain hope
  • Make charity a priority

Virtue consists more in doing good than refraining from evil. –Aristotle

Perfection is impossible. Better is obtainable. It is possible to be a little better each day. If baby steps are all we can muster, well, that is still progress. Let us strive to do good each day, and the behaviors we perceive as evil will eventually dissipate.

Nothing Without Love

Charity 10/13/2019

Outside of the passage from the book of Genesis (ch. 2), it is no surprise that Paul’s great chapter on love in I Corinthians 13 is frequently read at weddings. After all, isn’t love the ideal reason for marriage in today’s society? For the common person, it is not for social or political reasons. Not for an arranged marriage. It is love. Those other reasons seems like entering into a contract of misery.

When I attended a co-workers wedding recently, I once again heard Paul’s words. But unlike all the other times, this time I really heard the words. They sounded different this time. What I could almost repeat verbatim entered my ears for what seemed like the first time.

Instead of the word “love,” they used the older, traditional word of “charity.” When we think of charity, we often think of the giving of our time and/or money to those in need. Do we ever consider that what we are giving is love? Do we give out of love?

If you have read any of my other posts, you may have realized that I frequently write on the virtues. There are seven traditional virtues. The four cardinal virtues: prudence, temperance, justice, and courage. And then, there are the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and love. Paul closes out the thirteenth chapter with these words:

And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. –I Corinthians 13:13

The greatest of these is love. Love, the highest virtue. And for those who would strive to be more virtuous in their daily lives, they must do it with love. What is any of the other virtues without this one? You could attempt to keep the 10 commandments and hold to the law without love. But then you would miss the point. But when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment of them all was, He responded with, “First love God, then love your neighbor.” (My abbreviated translation from Matthew 22:36-40). If you truly love God and your neighbor, you would be able to keep the law. Not because you were commanded or forced to do so, but because you wanted to do so, out of love.

Most of my day I spend thinking about how I can become a better person. I strive to be more virtuous, and then I record my efforts so that someday my son may have a little help as he negotiates his own path. For some reason, I rarely think about becoming a more loving person. I go back to thinking of today’s definition of charity and forget that it really is loving my neighbor. It is easy to love friends and family, but do I have the same outpouring towards those who desperately need it? In the end, we are all on the same team. We are humans trying to survive in a world that is often harsh and indifferent to our desires.

For those who could hear a nourishing passage, here is the full thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians:

  1. If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol.
  2. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I can have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
  3. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I am nothing.
  4. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
  5. It is not rude, 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. But when there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
  9. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
  10. but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
  11. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
  12. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
  13. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

What Good Have I Done?

Last night I opened up Twitter and in my notifications was a question that made me pause and think. “Now that the day has passed, what good did you do today?”

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I will keep constant watch over myself, and, most usefully, will put each day up for review. -Seneca

A new habit that I am working on is writing in my journal before going to bed. What am I writing about? I’m putting my day up for review and noting my short-comings. I am looking at where I went wrong and how I can do better in the future. Did I allow my temper to get the best of me? Did I not do the things I wanted to get done? I look at where I went wrong, but there is a question I don’t usually ask myself. What good did I do today?

Yesterday, I did a lot of good things for myself. I got up early. I exercised, read, and wrote. I drafted a future post on the virtue of Temperance. I went to work. I went about my day as usual and did a lot of good things -for myself. To my knowledge, I didn’t do anything evil. I don’t even remember having any bad thoughts. But did I do any good? I did what I felt was right, but is this enough? I didn’t see an opportunity to do a good deed, but was I really even looking?

Virtue consists more in doing good than refraining from evil. -Aristotle

When I came home, I found out my son got in trouble at school. He hit someone for no reason. I asked him why. He said because he wanted to. He was not provoked nor upset by the other person. He, for no apparent reason, wanted to hit the other boy. I did my duty as father.

What is my duty? As a father, it is my duty to raise a boy into a strong and productive man that can contribute to society when he gets older. He has his name and reputation to protect, even at the age of six. He cannot do that if he is being a bully. He must actively do good and not only refrain from evil.

The rod of correction gives wisdom, but uncontrolled youths disgrace their mothers. Discipline your children, and they will bring you comfort, and give delight to your soul. -Proverbs 29:15,17

“What good did I do today?” It is good that I did my duty. But if he did not get into trouble, would I have done any good? My plan after work was to play with my son. We were going to exercise a little, wrestle a bit, and then get into some Legos. My “good” was in being a good father and husband. It may not seem remarkable to some, but I view it as my sacred duty. Yet I could have done more on this day. I will catalog it in my journal and make the attempt to do more “good” tomorrow.

Again, thank you Chip for creating this awareness to actively do good.