"We believe we are measured by how well, or how little, we manifest virtue in our life's journey . . . It was understandable, then, that the worth of a person was not measured in the things he or she owned, but in the deeds done on behalf of others."
Joseph M. Marshall III
For many traditional indigenous peoples, the most important thing one can possess is an honorable and noble character. Here, for example, is a fascinating webpage detailing the virtues most valued in traditional Lakota society: http://kalloch.org/lakota__four_values.htm. Among these are generosity, courage, respect and wisdom.
From a Christian mystical perspective, one reason why virtues such as these are so important is this: they become a clear mirror in which we can see God. For example, Gregory of Nyssa, writing in the 4th century, said:
“You do have within your grasp the degree of the knowledge of God which you can attain. For, when God made you, He at once endowed your nature with this perfection: upon the structure of your nature He imprinted an imitation of the perfections of his own nature . . . You must then wash away, by a life of virtue, the dirt that has come to cling to your heart like plaster, and then your divine beauty will once again shine forth . . . Thus if such a person will look at himself he will see within himself the object of his desire; and thus he will become blessed, for in gazing upon his own purity, he will see the Archetype (God) within the image (his own heart).” “By his very nature God transcends the entire order and structure of the created universe . . . He is inaccessible, intangible, and incomprehensible. But in His stead we have this perfume within us distilled from the perfection of our virtues . . . This spikenard [perfume] is compounded from the fruits of the spirit, from charity, joy, peace, faith, and all the others . . . Thus, in the Canticle [Song of Songs], the spikenard of the bride brings to her the sweet odor of her Bridegroom.”
Character or virtue is hardly ever discussed in our modern society. It seems people nowadays so often value themselves according to how much money they make, which technological devices they possess, or what their doctrinal beliefs are. I'm convinced it is time for us to focus instead on developing our own character as though it were a precious work of art that manifests the Divine Presence. Do you agree?
Photo: The Cache la Poudre River, ducks, and Bellvue Dome on a snowy day, near Bellvue, CO
Please visit: http://www.resourcesforspiritualgrowth.com/
Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.