Virtue Isn’t Accidental: 5 Ways To Become Better On Purpose
“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win.” - 1 Cor 9:24
If you’ve read through my first two posts on virtue you should 1) Have an idea of what virtue is and why we should pursue it 2) Have an idea of what pitfalls await all of us as we attempt to pursue virtue.
Today’s post is going to focus on 5 ways we can pursue virtue daily.
First we need to accept the fact that none of us will be able to grow in virtue accidentally. If our lives aren’t directed towards virtue we will never find it. Our virtue is an internal disposition towards our greatest good and for many of us that requires a internal reorientation.
This reorientation needs to become a daily effort, a constant attempt at climbing the mountain. A single step forward in a day is more beneficial to our cause, than a year of standing still. Here are 5 ways to make sure you’re taking steps forward on your pursuit of virtue.
Move On Purpose
Our improvement depends on our movement. That means that starting today you should start living and acting on purpose. Everything you do needs to have an intention behind it. That means no more mindless scrolling through social media (even if that brought you to our site), no more mindless snacking, Netflix binges, or accidentally playing hours of video games.
By choosing to live intentionally you are giving yourself the opportunity to deliberately choose the good in every situation.
2. Become More Aware
If you try to choose the good in every situation, you’ll quickly find that it’s easier said than done. Intentional living should lead to an increase awareness of the areas of your life where choosing the good is hard. Develop an accurate assessment of yourself and areas of struggle.
Your attempt at choosing the good in all things will reveal the internal fractures I mentioned in the last post. Those are the areas of your life where you may want to choose the good, and know what the greatest good is, yet still fall short. You should find that your intentional living reveals areas of your life where you act counter to your intentions. This might be something as small as cheating on your diet or as big as constantly viewing pornography even though we said we would never do it again.
Acknowledge these areas of weakness and don’t write them off. Don’t minimize and rationalize them by bringing up how successful you are in other areas of your life. Also, don’t define yourself by your weaknesses by claiming that there’s nothing else you can do to change. Both are lies.
Acknowledge that you have areas of your life that are broken and need repair. There are desires in you that run contrary to the person you want to become. You act in ways that you know aren’t good, and feel like there is nothing you can do to change.
Live intentionally, be aware of the areas you fall short, and acknowledge those areas for what they are: areas of your life that need help and healing from Someone other than yourself.
As we move forward, we need to be careful or we’ll fall for the bootstrap lie. As men, we have been programmed to believe that all of our struggles must be fixed by picking ourselves up by our bootstraps. That simply isn’t true.
We need God, and that’s OK.
We can begin our journey towards growth in virtue and good habits on our own. We can begin to make deliberate attempts to always choose the good, but without God, we are only engaging in behavior management. Authentic virtue requires more than behavior management, it requires complete transformation.
After we fully acknowledge our weaknesses, we need to invite God into them. Pray daily that God can help you in those fractured areas. When we invite God into our brokenness, we don’t pray for Him to take away our desires, we pray that He reorient them towards Him, towards good, towards virtue.
5. Get To Work
Personal prayer and the Sacraments are necessary for our transformation and reorientation. So is hard work. Sometimes, the idea that good gifts and blessings come from God alone can lead to a false understanding of how much work is required of us. Authentic virtue requires God’s grace and our participation.
Our fight against vice is not an either-or situation. It’s not either we work really hard on our own or we pray and allow God to do the hard work for us.
Fleeing vice and pursuing virtue requires a both-and approach. As Peter Kreeft puts it, modern Christianity “sees virtues as a sheer gift of God and not also as hard human work.” (Back To Virtue, 66) Our hard work, relentless pursuit, and active faith are all required for our success.
We cannot grow in virtue without God, and He will not grow virtue within us without us.
Putting It Together
So how does a man flee vice and pursue virtue?
He moves on purpose
He becomes aware of the areas of his life that need improvement
He acknowledges the fractured areas of his life.
He invites God into His brokenness.
He gets to work.
Pursuing virtue and being perfected in virtue is a long work of grace.
For now, I think we are all off to a good start.
Until next time - Esto Vir!
I hope you enjoyed our “Pursue Virtue” series
Be sure to read our first two parts:
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