Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Why I'm Not Bothering to be Good Anymore...
Kindness. Goodness. Generosity. Patience. Compassion. I look for virtues like these in friends, and value them in family. They define nice people, people I want around me, and the kind of person I want to be. Most people do, I think. Hardly anyone wants to spend most of their time with someone crabby and mean. So I try to be nice and so does most everyone I know. Sometimes, though, I wonder why.
After all, what's the point? Life doesn't last all that long, and I have spent much of it either growing up or growing old. Out of the eighty years I will most likely live, only forty of them encompass my strength. Why not spend them doing exactly as I please? Of course, laws prevent me from doing some things. I can't physically hurt anyone and I have to pay my taxes, but no law says I have to understand or help or be pleasant in the WalMart checkout line. Because, frankly, sometimes I just don't want to. So why bother?
If life ends at death, and many say it does, then many virtues fade into irrelevancy. Honesty prevents the immediate ease that lies often allow. Patience causes me to lose precious moments of my all-too-fleeting life. Perseverance causes me to suffer longer than I might have to. Self-control delays satisfaction. Goodness often means I put someone else's needs ahead of my own. Kindness causes me to stuff down my own feelings. Generosity demands I give to someone else something I could use for myself.
Virtues, then, cause me to waste my life. If this life is all I get, why in the world would I want to do that? Just forget it. Give them up. Crassness, unkindness, selfishness, deceit mean nothing because I am on my own and everybody else is, too. If nothing I do lasts, then it doesn't matter whether I do good or evil. I will disappear like smoke anyway and leave no trace behind. I do not care what people think of me because none of it matters.
I do care, however, and so does most everybody else, but in the context of a temporal world, denying my own comfort or desires makes no sense because I do it for no reason. I have nothing to gain. But what if I did have something to gain, something so important that achieving it makes all the difference?
In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,...In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.--1Peter 1:3, 6-7
I do have something to gain, then. If You exist, God, if you died and rose, then virtues make sense and my suffering through them bring me hope for a life that never dies. You provide the only answer to the impossible contradiction of suffering to live a good life that dies with me. Anyone who believes it right to live a good life believes in You whether they admit it or not.