Be ye therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt5:48)
“On the whole, I am a good Christian”
With regard to virtue, “that which costs nothing is worth nothing.”
This thought, an author remarks, makes us tremble. In examining our conscience, our life, and our habits, we sometimes feel a certain pleasure in discovering that we possess a small collection of virtues, “very agreeable ones…”
Thus we like to pray, “at such an hour, such a place, and with such and such sentiments,” and we say, “I am pious,” we are gentle, polite, smiling “to such a person;” we are patient “before those we fear or whose esteem we desire to gain;” we are devoted, charitable, generous, “because in the depths of our soul we feel an undesirable pleasure in giving charity and devoting ourselves to others;” we willingly suffer something “from those we love,” and we say, “I am good;” we are silent “because we do not care to talk;” we fly from society “because we do not shine in it,” and we say, “I am recollected.”
Examine yourself carefully
But examine one by one those virtues which make you so self-satisfied, and perhaps lead you to prefer yourself to others. Examine at what a price, at what sacrifice, with what labour and struggling, with what special attention you have succeeded at acquiring them… Alas! you will find that all this patience, affability, generosity, and loving piety are nothing more than so many nothings inflated with pride.
“Staying on the carpet” in order to become as holy as one can be
That which has cost nothing is worth nothing.
Sacrifice being the essential basis of virtue, as De Maistre remarks, the most meritorious virtues are those which are acquaint with the greatest trouble.
Then do not regard this charming collection of pretty virtues with such complacency, but face your faults.
Tackling one fault at a time
Take one of them, the first that comes – “impatience, laziness, want of order, gossiping, judgement of others, bad temper, …” and attack it firmly and with perseverance. A month, at least, is necessary, calculating on three victories a day, not, indeed, to destroy it – a fault has very great tenacity of life – but to prevent it ruling you.
Preventing your faults from ruling your life
One having been conquered, take another.
It is the work of a lifetime; it is especially with regard to faults that we may apply the popular proverb, “When there are not any, there are still very many.”
I will consider myself fortunate, says St Francis de Sales, if I succeed in ridding myself of my faults even a short quarter of an hour before my death.
– From: Golden Grains, Eighth Edition, H.M. Gill and Son, Dublin, 1889