893. Which is the most admirable of all the virtues?
“All virtues are admirable, as they all are signs of progress on the moral path. Every act of voluntary resistance to the seductive influence of temptations for wrongdoing is a sign of virtue, but the sublimity of virtue entails the sacrifice of self-interest for the good of others without having any ulterior motives. The most admirable of all virtues is that which is based on charity and is the most fair-minded.”
894. Some people do good spontaneously, without having to overcome any conflicting feelings. Is there as much merit in their action as in that of others who have to struggle to overcome the imperfections of their own nature in order to do good?
“Those who no longer struggle against selfishness have already accomplished a certain amount of progress. They have struggled and succeeded, and they no longer have to put forth any effort into behaving morally or justly. Doing good is perfectly natural to them, because kindness has become a habit that they have acquired. They should be honored as veterans are. They have earned their medals.”
“As you are still far from perfection, their behavior is astonishing to you because their action contrasts so strongly with that of the rest of humankind, and you admire it given its rarity. However, the exception in your world is the rule in more advanced worlds. Goodness is everywhere in those worlds because they are only inhabited by good spirits, and even a single foul intention would be considered an exceptional monstrosity. That is why these worlds are happy and it will be the same on Earth when the human race has been transformed, and understands and practices the law of charity in its true meaning.”
895. Besides the obvious faults and vices, what is the most characteristic sign of imperfection?
“Self-interest. Moral qualities are too often like gilding on copper that cannot withstand the acid test. Some individuals may possess good qualities that help them to appear to be virtuous, but those qualities, despite proving that they have made a certain amount of progress, may not be capable of standing trial. The slightest disturbance of their narcissism is enough to reveal their true nature. Absolute disinterestedness is so rare on Earth, that when you do encounter it you may very well view it as a phenomenon.”
“Attachment to material things is a sign of inferiority, because the more you care for the things of this world, the less you understand your destiny. Your disinterestedness, on the contrary, proves that you have a more elevated view of the future.”
896. Are there people who are indiscriminately generous and who dole out their money without doing any real good due to their lack of a reasonable plan? Is there any merit in their action?
“They have the merit of disinterestedness, but not that of the good they might do. While disinterestedness is a virtue, thoughtless spending reveals a lack of judgment, to say the least. Fortune is no more given to some individuals to be thrown away than to others to be locked up in a safe. This is a deposit for which they will have to render an account. They will have to answer for all the good they might have done, but also that which they failed to do. As well as all the tears they could have dried with the money they wasted on those who did not truly need it.”
897. Is it wrong if people do good in the hope that they will be rewarded in the next life, and that their situation will be better there for having done it? Will such an act have unfavorable consequences on their advancement?
“You should do good for the sake of charity, meaning disinterestedly.”
a) It is completely natural to want to advance to be free from this painful life. The spirits tell us to do good to reach this end. Is it wrong to hope that, through doing good, we may be better off than we are on Earth?
“Of course not. But those who do good impulsively, simply for the sake of pleasing God and providing relief to their suffering neighbors, have already reached a higher degree of advancement and are closer to reaching ultimate happiness than their brothers and sisters who, being more selfish, do good in hopes of receiving a reward, instead of being compelled by the goodness of their own hearts.” (See no. 894)
b) Should a distinction be made between the good we do for our neighbors and the effort we put forward to correct our own faults? We understand that there is little merit in doing good with the idea that we will be rewarded in the next life. Is it also a sign of inferiority to fx ourselves, conquer our passions, correct whatever flaws we may have, in the hope of bringing ourselves closer to good spirits and elevating ourselves?
“No, by doing good we merely mean being charitable. Those who count, in every charitable deed they do, how much they will be rewarded, in this life or the next, act selfishly. However, there is no selfishness in improving one’s self in the hope of getting closer to God, which should be everyone’s goal.”
898. Physical life is only a temporary stopover and our future life is what we should care about primarily. Is there any point in trying to acquire scientific knowledge that only refers to the objects and wants of this world?
“Of course there is. This knowledge enables you to benefit humankind. Also, if your spirit has already progressed in intelligence, it will rise faster in the spirit life and learn in an hour what it would take years to learn on Earth. No knowledge is useless since it all contributes to your advancement in one form or another. A perfect spirit must know everything and progress must be made in every direction. All acquired ideas help forward development.”
899. Out of two rich individuals who both use their wealth solely for their personal satisfaction, one was born into affluence and has never known want, the other earned his or her wealth by personal labor, which is more shameful?
“The one who knows suffering and does nothing to relieve it. He or she knows unrelieved pain Too often, this person no longer remembers the difficulties it has endured.”
900. Can those who constantly accumulate wealth, without doing good for anyone, find an excuse in the fact that they will leave a large fortune to their heirs?
“This is a compromise with a bad conscience.”
901. Imagine a scenario with two miserly individuals. One forgoes the necessities of life and dies in want surrounded by treasures. The other is self-indulgent and cheap with respect to others. This person winces at making the smallest sacrifice for others or serving a noble cause while the cost of indulging personal passions is inconsequential. This individual is always short on funds when kindness is asked for others, but has plenty of money to satisfy any of his own whims. Which of them is more disgraceful? Which one will be worse off in the spirit world?
“The one who recklessly spends money on personal pleasures, because he or she is more selfish than miser. The other is already undergoing a part of the atonement.”
902. Is it wrong to wish for wealth as a means of doing good?
“Such a desire is admirable when it is pure, but is it always truly disinterested? Don’t people first desire to do good for themselves?”
903. Is it wrong to study other people’s faults?
“To do so merely for the sake of criticizing or exposing them is wrong, because it demonstrates a lack of charity. To do so for your own benefit to avoid replicating those flaws may sometimes be useful but you must not forget that understanding the faults of others is one of the elements of charity. Before criticizing others for their flaws, you should look at yourself and see if others could criticize you for the same faults. The only way to profit by such a critical examination of other’s faults is by trying to acquire the opposite virtues. Are those you criticize cheap? Be generous. Are they proud? Be humble and modest. Are they callous? Be gentle. Are they cruel and petty? Be great in everything that you do. Basically, act in such a way so that it may not be said of you, in Jesus’ words, that you ‘see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not see the beam in your own.’”
904. Is it wrong to probe the plagues of society and revealing them?
“That depends on the motive behind this action. If a writer’s only purpose is to create a scandal, he or she obtains personal satisfaction from presenting images or situations that are corruptive rather than instructive. The mind perceives the evils of society, but those who take pleasure in portraying evil for the sake of evil will be punished for doing so.”
a) In this case, how can we judge the purity of intention and the sincerity of the authors?
“It is not always necessary. If authors write good things, you profit by them. If they write bad things, it is a question of conscience. However, if they want to prove their sincerity, do they do it by the excellence of their own example?”
905. There are great books that are full of moral teachings from which their authors have not derived much moral profit despite helping the progress of humanity. Is the good those authors do by their writings be counted to them as spirits?
“Professing the principles of morality without subsequent action is like having a seed without completing the sowing. What is the point of having the seed, if you do not make it bear fruit to feed you? These authors are even guiltier, because they possess the intelligence that enables them to understand. By not practicing the virtues they recommend to others, they fail to enjoy the harvest they could reap themselves.”
906. Is it wrong for those who do good to be conscious of the goodness of their deed, and to acknowledge that goodness to themselves?
“Since human beings are aware of the bad they do, they must also be aware of the good they do as well. It is only by this recognition of their conscience that they can know whether they have done good or bad. By weighing all their actions according to God’s law, especially the law of justice, love and charity, they can decide whether they are good or bad, and can approve or disapprove of those actions accordingly. Therefore, it is not wrong to recognize the fact that they have triumphed over evil and rejoice in having done so, provided that this does not turn into narcissism, because that would be as reprehensible as any of the faults over which they have triumphed.” (See no. 919)