The Contending Forces Within

Cultivating virtue gives us a path toward happiness and self regard
BY Donna Martelli TIMEFebruary 24, 2022 PRINT

There’s a crazy conflict within our souls. Everything can be going well, and then out of nowhere, we want to do the wrong thing, whatever that might be.

You know your weaknesses, and I know mine. That error could be any thought or action that would harm another person or deliver a sinful pleasure that lowers our self-opinion.

An underlying principle of life in our mortal bodies is this: When we want to do what’s right, we inevitably, at some point, will want to do something wrong. In some cases, it seems the body itself wants things that our mind does not.

This internal dissension is precisely why we must pursue and nurture virtue in ourselves. Doing so gives us the power to disregard any thought or heart matter that challenges our virtuous living.

If we commit to the virtuous path, we will watch our contentment grow as our self-image lifts. As kindness, honesty, and other virtues guide our thoughts and actions, a sense of well-being eases in around us. Few things make us as truly content as knowing we did the right thing—especially when it was difficult.

Choosing virtue even has the power to banish the depression that comes from an unproductive and self-centered life. Our anxious thoughts about other people’s opinions become light when we know we’ve based our actions on the well-being of those around us. Stress about what may come decreases when we rest assured that despite whatever life holds, we have our dignity and self-regard.

What Is Virtue?

Virtue is the quality or practice of moral excellence. It includes character traits such as tolerance, faithfulness, compassion, integrity, and sincerity.

When we think of a virtuous person, we think of one with high moral standards and humility. We see them as honest, compassionate, and courageous. Virtue is a high calling, and it’s a quality that we respect and admire in others.

How Can We Cultivate Virtue?

Once we decide to live virtuously, we need to nurture and support virtue in ourselves.

Virtue will not just happen to us; we have to nurture it in our hearts and minds. Knowing there will be roadblocks, we also know that we have the power to avoid and overcome the obstacles that would derail us. There are several habits and ideas that can help us on the path to virtue:

  • Realize that virtuous living is a choice and decide to follow righteous living.
  • Seeing a need, we do what we can to meet it.
  • Always treat people with kindness, no matter who they are or what they do.
  • Think of others before ourselves.
  • Express gratitude wherever and whenever appropriate.
  • Volunteer time to a worthy cause.
  • Give of our resources to help others.
  • Work on life-giving goals.
  • Maintain a policy of constant honesty.
  • Act only with integrity.
  • Seek always to deepen our compassion.
  • See our own relief in easing the suffering of others.
  • Speak only what will be helpful to others.
  • Share our hope and levity through a genuine smile.
Formerly a professional dancer with the Harkness Ballet of New York, and faculty member at Butler University, Indianapolis, IN, Donna was Director of Fitness Arts at LivRite Fitness. There, she taught Ballet, Barre, Pilates, Stretch and Conditioning, Personal Training and provided fitness consultations to members. She created Raise the Barre at LivRite, trained, qualified, and managed its instructors, and wrote its training manual. She is the author of “When God Says Drop It” and “Why the Dance,” available wherever books are sold.
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