Can only difficult action be called good and virtuous?

September 19, 2011

The German poet Schiller said this: "How gladly I'd serve my friends, but alas, I do so with pleasure. And so I have this nagging feeling that it's unethical."

What I find so sad about this quote is that Schiller feels almost guilty
about something good (serving his friends) which he naturally finds
 pleasure in doing. And so because it's pleasurable it has this
unethical flavour about it.

Where does this kind of feeling stem from? I think it comes from that
unbalanced view that we are naturally evil and that our natural
inclination is always to do evil. It says further that only action which
is hard and difficult to perform can ultimately be called good or
virtuous. Many will say, well, yes, the words of St Paul affirm this - "For what I do is not the good that I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing." There's truth here, but as with everything, when you push it too far it starts becoming false.

What about balancing, then, Paul's experience with Jeremiah's words; "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts." Just
maybe in these words a natural going with the grain of our inmost being
naturally issues forth in goodness and virtue. Maybe, expressing virtue
doesn't have to be this hard and demanding struggle. Maybe it's the
most natural thing we can do. Perhaps, we've just lost touch with this
part of ourselves because for too long we've been told otherwise.

Matthew Fox makes the point that for ages we've laboured under the
weight of original sin conveniently forgetting the innate beauty of our
original blessing, and that the time has now come to correct this sad
imbalance. What would that ultimately mean for us? A new found trust in
the Divine and ourselves? I believe so.

Originally posted at Seeing More Clearly.