Just as the devil is at war with God, so too, vices are at war with virtue. The devil wants people to believe that God does not exist. He also wants people to believe that neither does virtue exist. He would like to demolish virtue. One way of achieving this is to convince people that virtue is really vice.
According to this strategy, vice absorbs virtue into itself. Therefore, virtue is merely a pretense, or a fraud and really belongs to the category of vice.
Here are 10 examples of how the devil attempts to carry out this sinister strategy.
First, love is really a form of lust. Love is a virtue that promotes the good of the other.
By contrast, Sigmund Freud has stated that even St. Francis of Assisi “was using love to produce an inner feeling of happiness.” Hence, his “love” was really a form of self-interest.
For the celebrated Austrian psychoanalyst, this form of love is “aim-inhibited” since the strongest kind of love is sexual and non-sexual forms or lesser forms of love result when people are frustrated because sexual love cannot be attained. Freud’s influence is inestimable.
Second, confidence is really a form of pride. Pride is an inordinate of estimation of oneself. Confidence, on the other hand, is based on a realistic assessment of oneself. A person can be confident that he can do the things that are within his power. Pride is essentially unrealistic. But it is equally unrealistic to claim that all confidence belongs to the category of pride. A person may lack confidence because of certain weaknesses, but genuine confidence should not be associated with pride.
Third, patience is really a form of sloth. Patience, the ability to endure difficulties without despairing, is a virtue that belong to the cardinal virtue of fortitude. True patience is positive. Nonetheless, it is commonly believed that patience indicates weakness, the fear of acting, or a preference for indecision. In this sense, patience can easily be mistaken for sloth.
Fourth, reverence is really a form of envy. Reverence is respect for something that is holy, beautiful, praiseworthy, or good. It rises above any taint of egoism. It does not desire to possess that which it honors, but honors it simply for the good that it is. The cynic believes that we envy all things that are good. He believes that we are frustrated when we cannot possess that which we admire. Such a deception is rooted in pride, an excessive preoccupation with the isolated self.
Fifth, prudence is really a form of cowardliness. Prudence is not cowardly. It is the wisdom to know when to act and when not to act, what to do and what not to do. Because prudence often defers action, it is charged with the vice of cowardice. This is a grossly unfair assessment of prudence and an abject failure to appreciate a virtue whose synonym is wisdom.
Sixth, hope is really a form of greed. Hope, in its highest manifestation, is a supernatural virtue that is related to our desire to be with God. It is also a virtue that hopes for good things, for ourselves as well as for others. While it is true that people often hope for material things to the extent that they may be charged with the vice of greed, it cannot be said, that although some forms of hope are avaricious, so too, are all hopes.
Seventh, obedience is really a form of servility. In order to obey, one must be free. To obey God’s commandments presupposes that one is free to do so. Furthermore, in obeying God’s command, one is choosing a way of life that is perfective of one’s personhood. Christ was obedient unto death. The kind of obedience that is servile involves acquiescence to someone who does not have our good in mind. It is demeaning, not uplifting, destructive, and not productive.
Eighth, humility is really a form of hypocrisy. Humility is based on truth. The humble person sees himself as he is, a person who has both good and bad points. He does not attempt to create the impression that he is any better than what he knows himself to be. He embraces the virtue of humility not to convince people that he is virtuous, but merely to present himself as he is. The hypocrite wants people to praise him for factors which he does not possess.
Ninth, meekness is really a form of weakness. Meekness is often confused with weakness because it defers action. Nonetheless, as St. Thomas Aquinas avers, “meekness above all makes a man self-possessed. It is the virtue that gives us the power to suffer evils without cringing, whining, or complaining. For Boethius, who was unjustly imprisoned, as he noted in his classic, The Consolation of Philosophy, “the greatest joy is self-possession in the face of adversity.”
Tenth, zeal is really a form of fanaticism. “Zeal arises from an intense love for truth,” as St. Thomas writes. “Be zealous for spiritual gifts,” St. Paul advises.
In a world in which neither truth nor spiritual gifts are cherished, a zealous person may be regarded as a fanatic. Those who defend the life of the unborn are often labeled “fanatics.” The zealous person is maligned as a zealot and takes his place alongside of the bureaucrat, autocrat, and technocrat, all sharing the same disparaging suffix.
When Time did a cover story on William Bennett’s best-selling work, The Book of Virtues, it demeaned people who promote virtue as “virtuecrats.”
We must be confident about our virtues and keep them strong so that they are not absorbed into vices. It is easy to mistake a virtue for a vice just as it is easy to mistake a vice for a virtue. It has been said that a philanderer is a person who considers himself too good to be true. This proverbial philanderer, however, is guilty of pride because he has too high an opinion of himself and of lust because he cannot be true to anyone.
Virtue and vice are distinct. We should embrace virtue and resist vice; otherwise, vice will overtake whatever virtue we might have.
Dr. Donald DeMarco is a senior fellow of Human Life International, professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College in Cromwell, Conn. This editorial appeared in the July 19, 2018, edition of The Wanderer.
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