Have you ever thought about infinity? Crazy that we’re the only animals that think about God, yet we’re finite – we have limits to the reach of our bodies and minds. But we know there’s something bigger out there and in our best moments we want to connect with it. In our very best moments, we know that we’re part of that infinity and it’s part of us. We think of God in terms of lightness, of luminosity.
And in our not-so-good moments we lower our sights from the big picture and do something petty (which means small) like treating others as possessions, to be used instead of loved. Destructive thoughts and actions are to our souls like tarnish on a silver spoon. The spoon’s still precious metal, but that’s hard to tell through the grey coating.
Our souls are bright beyond imagining, created in the image of the good God. In the deepest part of us, we’re created to love and to be loved. But we can obscure that beauty when we fall into anger, lust, or other toxic behavior that is so familiar. And so corrosive.
If corrosive actions have become habits, we can even feel worthless – as if we’re all tarnish with no silver left! But we are always precious, even when we mistakenly think we’ve done something unforgivable. Your brilliant self, the one that God sees, is always waiting to be uncovered.
Our souls can be buffed up shiny and new no matter how much tarnish we have. It takes some effort – and a little help from your friends – to reveal the real you, but it’s always worth it. And always possible!
Virtue is polish for the soul. Last week I gave a friend advice about something that was none of my business. Ouch – did I really say that? I realized I was wrong, stirred up my courage, and apologized. Voila! That’s all it took to wipe the tarnish off our friendship. No matter what has tarnished your peace of mind, practicing the virtues will buff away everything that dims the clarity of your dazzling true self.
For a good number of years, I have been inspired by Aristotle’s 4 cardinal virtues – Prudence, Courage, Temperance, and Justice. I am inspired because these 4 virtues have a generality that makes them applicable to so many areas of my life – practical, social, and spiritual.
I also love brevity, so here they are, in brief.
Prudence – the virtue of taking the time to look at matters carefully, from a number of viewpoints, before deciding that you actually understand the matter.
Courage – the virtue of having the willpower to make righteous decisions, once you understand the matter.
Temperance – the virtue by which the degree, speed, depth, and timing of your actions are governed by the importance of the matter on hand.
Justice – the guiding virtue by which you see clearly what is rightly due, both for what you give, and for what you receive.