False Virtue

By Richard Salbato


As in keeping with my obsession that we are in a war with secularism, the secularism of governments and that we are loosing this war.  I want now to show one of the many reasons we are loosing this war.  First understand that Relativism, bred Secularism, which bred Communism and now Pluralism.


Relativism means that there really are no standards. One thing is just as good as another; there is no right, there is no wrong, it is all relative. Coming from the so-called Enlightenment Philosophers that bred the French Revolution and taught that all morals were a result of social historical environment and could change with time and place and that there was no fixed moral or natural laws, this found its way into governments, who adopted secularism.  Secularism believed that God's natural and moral laws did not belong in the laws of governments and all reference to God or his moral laws should be removed from governments.  Because of Government schools preaching this garbage for from 60 to 120 years depending on what country you are in, this relative attitude spilled over into religions and we call it "Pluralism".  Pluralism is just the same atheistic Relativism with a stamp of Religion on it.  Pluralism is a man centered moral law instead of a God centered moral law.  It places anyone's idea of religion and morals as right for that person because to pluralists their conscience is the moral guide and not God.


Pope Benedict is going to do to relativism what Pope John Paul II did to Communism; he is going to deal them a deadly wound. Are we going to be with him or against him.  What I see in the Catholic Church even among priests and nuns is not very encouraging.  Before they can help in this war they have to re-educate themselves in Virtue and Sin.


The Object of True Virtue


In the end virtue has as its goal to love God, ourselves and others.  Loving God, ourselves and others means to do what is good and right to God, to ourselves and to others.  A truly virtuous person stands out today like a beacon in a dark sea.  A truly virtuous person (very rare today) stands out and we say: "What a lady!" or "What a gentleman!" but often we do not know why we see them that way.  They radiate confidence, softness, politeness, courage, gentleness, neatness, and such goodness that we just like being around them.  They are not self-conscious and pay no attention to what people think of them but only what they can do to make others happy and better for their presence with them.   The virtuous person is not afraid to walk up to a total stranger with a smile and greeting.  He is not afraid of what others think.  He is only interested in making others happy without thought of himself.  


The best way to understand the true lady or gentleman (virtuous people) is to look at the non-virtuous people.  Without talking yet about false virtue, look at the obvious signs.  Self conscious people lack virtue and it is obvious.  They walk into a room worried about what people think of them - are they dressed properly, will they be accepted, will they be liked.  As a result of this self absorbed mental state they do not smile unless others do so first, they do not greet you unless you greet them first, they do not, in short, make any effort to make anyone happy unless you make them happy first.  A thin man will be intimidated by a strong man, a fat woman will hate the thin woman, a plan man will hate the good looking man, etc.  Why, because they are self absorbed.  In truth a true gentleman is so confident in all situations that he is envied and it does not matter what gifts he was born with, he just does not pay attention to them and loves everyone with equal love and is never intimidated by others for any reason because he does not compare.   As a result the plain man looks handsome and the plain woman looks beautiful.


So, as you can see, even though it is not the reason for virtue, the results of virtue in every case is happiness for the virtuous person and those around him or her. A virtuous person is loved because you must love a loving person.


False Virtue Does Not Produce Happiness


To sum up false virtue before giving some examples, is that it does not produce any fruits even though it pretends to be virtue and mostly it does not produce happiness in the subject or the object.   The greatest example of this is excessive self-observation.  I think when Christ said that we must be like little children, He was talking about how children enjoy things without reflecting on why they enjoy them.  They see what is around them without looking at their own reaction to what is around them or how they might be perceived by others.  Why do we think little children so beautiful?  Because they smile and laugh and enjoy things without inter-reflection of why they enjoy, they just enjoy and we love to see this.  We must become like this, like children who see others and things in the light of beauty and enjoyment without an self-absorption.


To really enjoy the sunset, good music, beauty of any kind, we must forget ourselves and enter into the object.  The self absorbed can never really love because he does not enjoy the other person's beauty but remains reflected on his own emotion, his own attitude, his own acceptance or rejection.  Only in self-forgetfulness do we find we can love.


Pope Benedict XVI said:

"if young men see priests highly isolated, sad, tired, they say: if that is my future, forget about it.  Such communion of life must truly be created to show the young: yes, this can be a future for me too, this can be life ...  we need to attract the young to the Church. ... It is important that young people can discover the beauty of faith ... that it is beautiful to have God as a friend. ...This intellectual factor must then be accompanied by an affective and social factor, that is by a socialization in faith...so that faith forms community, offers places of life and convinces in an ensemble of thought, affection, friendship of life."


The nun who walks down the street with her hands folded in prayer but never greets or smiles at anyone does not reflect true virtue and will not attract people to vocations.  The priest who constantly talks about himself, selling himself more than God, does not have true virtue and will not lead people to God. 


Consider the young girl who dresses for attention then acts as if she is upset if anyone looks at her.  How stupid! Compare that to a a person, man or woman who lights up even a coffee shop just by coming in because they show their love for everyone, no matter who they are.  Virtue is not meant to show but it does.  A truly virtuous person looks into the eyes of everyone with real interest in who they are, what they think, and what they need without even a thought of what impression they might be making in the situation.  This is true humility.


False Humility

Liberation from one's self is called Humility. True humility is not having any opinion about oneself except truth, truth in light of God's revelation.  The truth that whatsoever good value we have comes from God.  This truth is what humility is all about.  If God calls us to something, like He called Ratzinger to be Pope, the humble leaves this to God and not to his own feeling of being unworthy.  This feeling of questioning God's providence is not humility but pride.  Humility is not cowardice or complacency but requires the same heroic abandonment of self as does faith, hope and charity.  Some people use values or false virtues to glorify themselves, whereas the humble will use his talents to help others and to glorify God.  The person who hates himself, or wallows in self pity or is depressed over his shortcomings is not humble but is wallowing in pride, which is a preoccupation with the self.  Humility is not spineless.  Cowards are afraid of conflict.  The humble handles conflict with the other person's gain in his heart and not his own gain.  Nonetheless, he is not afraid of conflict.


False Simplicity

Simplicity is a unity of life anchored in God. When we see God's gifts and work within our gifts and abilities without detours into areas we are not called to, we can say that we have simplicity.  The true enemy of simplicity is a dependence on what people think of us one way or the other, pleasure in being spoiled or depressed from being rejected.  The simple person is always heroic because he does not look this way or that but goes strait to the highest good and for no other reason than the good itself.  Because of some modern ideas of simplicity it is associated with stupidity.  But the truth is that Einstein could be called simply because he keep his thinking and his work within the limits of his ability and did not try to work on things he knew nothing about.  Damian, of the leper Island, was simple.  He was good with his hands but not a good speaker, so he used his hands to convert and help the lepers and not his tongue.


False Trust in God

Nothing is more stupid and even aggravating than people who see injustice and say they will pray that God helps them but do nothing to correct the injustice themselves.  St. Francis said that he stayed before the altar of God and logically thought out what he should do each day.  He trusted that God would guide his actions and inspire his own thinking but in the end it was his free will and his action.  This is why in modern times people say, "Evil triumphs because good people do nothing."  The virtuous person trusts in God's promise that if we do what He commands us, He will help us in this life and in the next.  God does not cause everything to happen but He does allow it, and we should except the good and the bad with equal trust that God knows what is good for us.   Often people, while living idle from sloth or levity, expect God to sustain them.  We must not expect God to repair by a miracle the damage our unreasonableness and our omissions have inflicted upon ourselves.


False Freedom

For virtue to be virtue it must come from our free will.  Sometimes we will what we do not feel like doing and this is real virtue.  We cannot feel love, joy, or fervor at the command of our will, although we can in time move by the will of our upper being the feelings in our lower being.  However, even when we do not feel loving we can love, and even when we do not feel joyful we can show joy to others to make them feel better.  We are in the image of God and therefore we have free will to do good or evil.  Be we are not free to choose what is good and evil because the tree of the knowledge of good and evil belongs to God.  The new false freedom is those who pick and choose what laws they want to obey and say that their conscience is clear and therefore they are not sinning.  This is a false freedom that leads to destruction.


False Love

Love is an action and not a feeling.  We are commanded to love.  People who have a preoccupation with themselves as mentioned about are not capable of love.  Love must have no other motive than the good of others.  But because we live in a Narcissian age today most people only show love if they can get something out of it for themselves.  They love to be loved, they love if loved in return, but if they are not loved in return they take back their love. Love is only real love if it expects nothing in return.  We almost never find this true love today, except maybe in mothers for children.  Even then in this Narcissian age this love diminishes with age as the mother expects to be paid back for her love.  We also have selected love, which is also false love.  People will love there own kind, French for French or white for white, but will not love any other nationality or race. This is not the way God wants us to love.  We even have a false love for God, in that people love God when things go well but withdraw that love when things go badly.  True love has no price.



Empathy -- sensing and being in tune with other people's emotions, is good and requires that we pay attention to other people which cannot be done when we are preoccupied with ourselves.  But always catering to others emotions is not always a virtue. 

One with a proper empathy can see when his conversation is not going well and will stop it or change it.  But when speaking the truth about important things brings about bad emotions in others we must not sacrifice truth to cater to the emotions of others.  We must look at the impression our conversation is likely to produce, but we must never become dependent on the anticipated and often, in fact, merely imagined impression on others.  Even if true we must not rally to another's opinion just becaue it has been set forth with an impressive vigor, but only if convinced by objective truth.  Some people use emotions to control weak people, cry to get their way, threaten to get their way, or put them in a this or that situation where both are wrong.


Truth or Public Opinion

Nothing that is out of accord with the doctrine of the Holy Church must be accepted, no matter if all the world is against you. Today truth is not truth but what the majority thinks truth is.  Nothing is objectively true today but only what the majority can be convinced of no matter how stupid.  Public opinion as such should have no hold whatsoever on a true Christian.  We may not think we are affected by public opinion and we are free thinkers, but is that true.  How about the reason you are a Catholic.  It is because you have found the truth or because your father and mother were/are Catholics.  Maybe your objective reason is based in what you think has always been held as true such as our new Traditionalist and not necessarily because of objective truth. Or maybe like what we call, Liberal Catholics, we want change for the sake of change on not for a true and applied method of seeking what is good for all and in keeping with God' will at this time.  These people's values are conditioned by public opinion, whether in the masses or the family or the group they belong to.


Forgiveness or Justice

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after justice, they shall have their fill."  Matthew 5:6.  But what about forgiveness.  Is, in fact, Justice the opposite of Forgiveness?  No! In fact, forgiveness requires a hunger and thirst for justice.  Justice implies that we seek the good of all and that we will seek the good of all even when it requires fighting against the few to protect the rights of the majority.  When, in fact, we have won the justice, we then seek to make the few see their faults and if then do, we are to forgive them.  WE DO NOT FORGIVE SIN UNTIL SIN IS STOPPED.


Patience or Lazy 

Patience is another misunderstood word.  Most often it is used by people who are just procrastinators or lazy.  I cannot see any case where we should be patient with ourselves (if someone does, let me know) but we must be patient with others and especially with God, who has His own time table.  Patience implies being at peace with whatsoever we have no power over to move quickly.  If the action is in our power, patience is just wasting time. 


Peace or Comfort

Ignoring a wrong done to us or to other for the sake of peace, is a false peace.  It is almost always the result of laziness, faintness of heart, or fear of tension or hostility. Fear of our adversary or fear of retaliation is not peace but surrender.


I remember reading about 6 young men beating and rapping a young woman in the center of a New York street with hundreds of apartments on both sides of the street.  Many people watched from their apartment windows, but not one person went down to help or even called the police.   Not my problem.  It will bother my comfort.  I do not want to get involved.  I am a peaceful man, and they might find out that I called.  This is not peace, this is a coward, a spineless disposition.


Even when it comes to our own relationships, not to defend one's own rights, out of sheer cowardice or love of comfort, has nothing to do with the true spirit of peace.  These kind of people you cannot trust to even have a conversation with because they will agree with you just to avoid disagreement.  In other words, they will lie to avoid conflict.


True peace means that even in conflict we have the interests of our adversary in our hearts.  Truth and justice is the only road to true peace.   Peace without justice is jail. 


Silence or Condoning

Silence is a great way to listen to God.  Silence is the sound of inspiration.  Silence is the wise, who prepare well before speaking.  But silence is the face of sin is affirmation.  The wife and daughter of Saint Thomas More pleaded with him to just say nothing about King Henry IIX and his marriage.  By just not saying anything the Saint could have saved his life.  However, he told the King that if he was released from jail he would shout to the heavens that the King was sinning.  To his wife and daughter he said, "Silence is affirmation."   We are either against sin openly or we are condoning it.  There is no middle ground.


Meekness or Good natured

Some people are born with a good, jovial nature and they love harmony.  This is good and everyone loves to be around them.  But this has nothing to do with the virtue of Meekness, which is a tender spiritual attitude of love for people.  Meekness needs an attitude of union and well wishing to others, it is not harsh but can be firm if the goal is the good of others. 


Common Sense or Illusion

Some people are so convinced of their own goodness, that they become easy pray to the devils.  They think of themselves and those they meet with uncritical confidence forgetting the Psalmist's warning that "Every man is a liar."  If something has the appearance of good, they believe it to be good, without any discernment.  Convinced of their own purity of intentions, they underestimate the snares of the evil Enemy.  These are those who trust in themselves and not in the teachings of the Church or the Authority of the Church.  Every illusion that comes their way with smooth words of comfort, will be their truth and no amount of logic will convince them otherwise.


Heroism or Fear

Heroism is not the lack of fear but the doing of what is right even faced with fear.  Heroism is not always a physical action but sometimes just a verbal or written thing that must be done for the good, in spite of knowing that it will cost friends and make enemies.  True heroism does not weight the cost of doing good, but marches forward because it is right. 


The fear might be there for a few moments but when measured against the good, the fear goes away.  It must be done so it is done.  Fear of what people will think is the enemy of all virtue.  Lingering fear of anything has no place in the virtuous person.


Contemplation or Tension

Contemplation is a most misunderstood word.  Most people who sit and think about the past and the future may think they are contemplating but they are not.  Some sit quietly in Church without praying and just think about religious things or their own religious life, good and bad, but this is not contemplation.  In must cases this form of thinking brings some form of tension. But true contemplation, natural or religious, does not bring any tension.  Contemplation is always in the present and never in the past or future.  It could be just looking at something beautiful and soaking it in.  In the religious sense it may be viewing with the soul's eye, God or Heaven, but always in the present and not with past or future considerations. 


Author's Warning

If these explanations of what virtues and related items are and are not has offended you and you think that I am a little far out in left or right fields,  I will now admit that all these definitions are short summaries of the writings of Dietrich von Hildebrand, who Pope Pius XII called the greatest theologian of the 20th Century.  


Richard Salbato