For the past 21 weeks we have taken an in-depth look at the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity, as well as an in-depth look at the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude and Justice. In looking at each virtue individually we have learned what the virtue is, why we should embrace each one of them, and how we might practice them to live happier lives. We now have the basic understanding for living a virtuous life, with one more very important aspect left to discuss.
It is one thing to look at each of these seven virtues by themselves. Now it’s time to put the pieces of the puzzle together and see these virtues in a different light. These seven virtues work in concert with each other. A serious deficiency in one of these virtues will drag down the effectiveness of the others. We need to keep them all strong and in balance with each other to obtain the most happiness attainable while on earth. Therefore, we need to not only look at each virtue individually, but we must evaluate the strength of each virtue within us, as it relates to the whole person. Remember, all of the virtues need exercise, just like the muscles of our bodies. Let’s take the example of attempting to lose weight, and see how the seven virtues work together.
One year ago, I decided that I needed to lose weight. My cholesterol was off the charts and I was about 60 pounds overweight. I took stock of the strength of my virtues, and I realized that my TEMPERANCE level was low. I had very little will power. I knew that I would not be able to succeed without the assistance of the Lord, for I have tried in the past to lose weight. Ah, that meant that I have FAITH! All things are possible with God (Matt 19:26)! I prayed for the grace of TEMPERANCE. I had HOPE because I knew that the Lord would not let me down. I was asking for a good thing and was willing to use the appropriate means to obtain the good. My intentions were appropriate. After meeting with my doctor and nutritionist, I began making PRUDENT decisions about what I ate. I was filled with FORTITUDE to stick with the new nutrition program. My actions were JUST because the means and the end were good; but most importantly, I did it because I LOVED myself enough and LOVED my husband enough to want to part ways with the unwanted behavior and embrace good health. One year later, I have lost 48 pounds, and my cholesterol is under control!!!
You can take any situation and apply the same evaluation test of how strong your virtue muscles are to determine what needs prayer, what needs practice, and what is working well. Then start praying, start practicing, and continue to be virtuous at what you already excel at. You too, will see positive change in our life that will make you happier!
We have more tools in the tool belt! They are called the acquired virtues. What are they and how do they work? We’ll discuss the answer to that question in our next reflection. Don’t miss it!