A Virtuous LifeAt film and television school I was taught that the first aim in making
advertisements should be to keep people from reaching full maturity.
The theory held that, once a person has their basic needs met, they will
naturally become interested in fulfilling their purpose in life and lose
interest in things such as consumer products.
Advertising, we were taught, must first aim at making people feel
insecure about themselves, and in a constant state of need, so that
people would remain consumers well past the age that might otherwise
be expected of a person. We were given examples of ads where the aim
was to make people feel self conscious--that they smell bad or have an
I was repulsed by this idea of stifling people's development on a mass
media level, just for the sake of selling consumer goods that people
didn't really need.
Today, all around me I see people who are suffering the effects of this
negative messaging. How this trend has hurt society is so much worse
than anyone could have anticipated.
You see, working in the area that I do, I see that, when a couple does
not mature, their children suffer terribly.
I was determined to nurture my own children and protect them from my
and Steve's immaturity; finally face the hard task of growing up. But I
struggled without a guidebook until I found a wonderful instructional
manual in the virtues.
But, after teaching countless couples the contentment and even glory that
can be found in practicing virtuous habits, and no longer allowing myself
to be held back by insecurity and self doubt, I started to run into a bit of a
problem at church.
You see, I was very excited about teaching the virtues, as taught by Christ
himself. Compassion, humility, understanding, moderation and valor to name
a few. But then church ministers began admonishing me, saying that I was
teaching salvation by works rather than by faith.
So, in answer to this rebuke, I will share this with you...
When you are learning to drive, you do not pray that God will teach you
those skills, or by faith drive without a teacher.
I have now worked four years in the business of helping partners of domestic
abuse. Countless times people have told me that they have prayed for God's
help with an abusive spouse. The smart, self-reliant ones say that God helped
them find our website. Because, if you pray to learn how to drive, God will
not expect you to do it by faith. Instead he will most likely direct you to a
good driving instructor.
In that way the virtues are similar. They are not works to bring us salvation
in the hereafter, but rather are skills we must learn if we wish to mature and
lead a life that will see us reach our full potential on earth.
How many children are suffering from a lack of virtue and maturity in their
parents and grandparents?
Jesus' life was not focused on his own salvation but upon sacrifice and virtue.
If we are to model our lives on Christ's life I believe we must end our
preoccupation with the doctrines of salvation. That was a gift and a promise
and we should trust and have faith in that promise.
The virtues have been so long forgotten that I see many people in my church
who seem to misunderstand even the most basic virtue, humility. Humility
does not require feeling unworthy.
Christ never put himself down. To say that we are unworthy of his sacrifice is,
in effect, to say that he was wrong to die for us. Christ always wanted us to
recognize our worth, not to denigrate ourselves before him.
Christ modeled true humility for us when he washed his disciples' feet. He was
not afraid to associate with beggars and misfits. He showed humility when he
asked why had God forsaken him as he hung on the cross.
True humility is the courage to do what is right even when others will look
down on you, and to have the courage to love your fellow man without the
need to compete with him.
Humility is also the ability to admit our wrong doings and limitations; that we
are not always the author of the grand plan for our lives.
It is the courage to accept the feelings of powerlessness that not being in charge
will sometimes bring; looking for God's plan in our lives and finding the courage
to follow, rather than always needing to be in charge.
A friend of mine recently said to me that perfection is the enemy of good. I liked
that, for if we feel we must be perfect before we can let our light shine, we will
surely walk in darkness all our lives.
The courage to share our gifts in all their imperfection is just one more way of
practicing humility. So for ourselves and for the sake of our children, please let
the leaders of our churches search their hearts and never shy away from teaching
the virtues. Not to earn our salvation, but simply as the best and most gratifying
way to live.