The word 'virtue' often has a somewhat prudish, moralistic connotation, but I just mean all the good stuff that nearly all of us value in ourselves and others, like loving, kind, honest, selfless, compassionate, etc. In fact, I'm going to suggest that morality does not lead to genuine virtue.
Morality is a culturally formed structure of values, and as such is entirely dependent upon the mores of the particular culture and subject to sometimes radical variation through both location and time. In one culture, human sacrifice or slavery may be considered acceptable practices, while in others it may be found reprehensible. In any case, the cultural mores generally reflect the personal morality of the individuals who form that group, and that structure can be useful for the integrity of the society as a whole, but it has very little to do with genuine virtue, and that's what we're interested in.
What we consider good correlates nicely with what makes us happy and safe, and what we call bad correlates with what frightens us and makes us feel vulnerable, and so there's nothing absolute about virtue. Still, humans are capable of a remarkable level of courage, compassion and selfless love, and we honor such qualities and seek to emulate them. Herein lies the difficulty.
The conscious attempt to act humble is not genuine humility because it is pushing against arrogance. That is, if one is trying to be humble, it is because the self image includes an arrogance against which vigilance must be exercised. If there were no arrogance, there would be no need to try to be humble. And so the attempt to be what one considers good assumes the ongoing presence of that which one considers bad. Which of these will win the battle is anybody's guess.
We're all familiar with some popular evangelists who regularly preach an elevated standard of virtue, but who sometimes have trouble practicing what they preach. The Roman Catholic Church has also regularly come under fire in the last decade, not only for the sexual misconduct of some of their priests, but also for their less than integrous response to these events. On a more personal level, it's a cliche to say that if someone tells you that you can trust them, it's a pretty good indicator that you shouldn't. Some may also be familiar with what I call the 'love-n-light' personality, who superficially expresses love, gentleness and kindness, and yet can become quite volatile under the wrong conditions.
Genuine virtue has no need to concern itself with virtue at all. Genuine humility has no interest in either humility or arrogance because it transcends both. The genuinely honest man need not be vigilant against the threat of his own dishonesty. The truly selfless have no self that needs to be selfless. The genuinely loving know that love moves the moment they get their own needs to be loving or to be loved out of the way.
Virtue appears automatically in the absence of the personal needs of the individual to be anything at all. Virtuous is the natural human condition when it is not obscured by fear and confusion. As with Love, Joy and Peace, it is already present in 'your' absence. This is why I say, 'come empty'.
More Inner Peace Articles:
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...
Discussion of: 'Acting Vs Being Virtuous'
Feel free to add your comments or questions....