By Engr. Carlos Cornejo
We can grow old but don’t grow up. An elderly grandfather at the age of 70 who goes home in a drunken frenzy throwing house items to the grandmother is hardly someone living up to his age. Whereas a teenage boy at a tender age of 13, who gets to become the breadwinner of the family because the father has been incapacitated and the mom is just a laundry woman with 3 siblings to feed, is surely more responsible than the grandfather. Age is not the measuring stick for maturity. What is the standard then for maturity? Maturity is not measured by age but by the practice of virtues. You can be young and yet mature. “I understand more than the aged, for I keep thy precepts.” (Psalm 119:100)
What are virtues? Virtues are good habits. And the opposite of virtue is vice. Vices are bad habits. We humans are a creature of habits. Whatever habits we develop ultimately defines our character. Examples of virtues are humility, hard work, patience, trustworthiness, persistence, chastity, generosity, discipline and detachment from material things. Vices on the other hand are more familiar to us because they are the ones that often hit the headlines. The more notorious ones are stealing, drunkenness, addiction, materialism, womanizing, graft and corruption and lying. Vices also includes pride, jealousy, laziness and the rest of the villains of the seven capital sins.
The great philosopher Aristotle (who was born before Christ) said that to be truly happy in this life we have to practice the virtues. This was confirmed by Christ in his Sermon in the Mount. Christ called those who are poor in spirit, those who seek righteousness, those who are pure in heart and the meek as blessed meaning happy. (Matthew 5:3-12)
If virtue makes us happy then vices bring us misery. We can observe this from people who are into vices especially those of addictive in nature (gambling, drugs or alcohol). They seem to be having a good time but deep inside they are hurting. Hurting because of guilt, as well as the feeling of enslavement. Being a slave to a person is something terrible but being a slave to an item or to an activity is worse.
Vices offer only fleeting pleasure. The problem with pleasure is once the pleasurable activity is over and done with, the pleasure ceases as well. That’s the reason why the vice has to be repeated many times and with increasing dosage (and with increasing expense). What a folly to be engaged in it, whereas virtues offer a better and more lasting happiness. Virtues may not offer immediate pleasure but will do so in the long run. It may be hard at the first few tries, but the satisfaction is more lasting, plus it makes you more successful in life. Virtues can make you intelligent, rich, and happy. Virtues are derived from the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. Those two sets of moral standards are our compass to navigate in this world, so that amidst the confusion and chaos in this life, we find our true goal and end in God. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked. Nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law, he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2)