Free Press Journal

Inculcate Virtues


One does not become excellent primarily by focussing on and avoiding what is wrong and bad. One becomes excellent by focussing on and pursuing what is right and good. Our primary goal as moral beings is not just to say no to vice but to say yes to virtue. G.K. Chesterton said: “Virtue is not the absence of vice or the avoidance of moral danger; virtue is a vivid and separate thing.”

Attaining ethical excellence is like growing a garden. The garden looks good only with beautiful flowers and not by pulling out weeds. After clearing the garden, one should plant seeds. Otherwise, the weeds will simply return. The best way to eliminate vice is to crowd it out with the presence of strong virtues. For example, if we want to avoid telling lies, we should focus less on lies and concentrate more on truth. We should address ourselves thus: “What is the point in telling lies? Is there any definite advantage? No! By selling the truth, our mind and conscience becomes clear. It is like washing clothes and making it a brilliant white.”

There is an Indian tribal story about two dogs. The tribal leader describing his own inner struggle said, “There are two dogs inside me, one of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good and helpful. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time.” An urban visitor asked him: “Which dog usually wins?” After a moment’s reflection he answered, “The one I feed most.” So, you see, when you feed your thoughts with evil it grows and grows. It becomes a giant. It becomes difficult to uproot it later.

So, good people will do good things, because they are good people. They will do bad things too because they are human. In our daily wrestling matches that set the pace of our lives, sometimes the angel wins and sometimes the angel loses. In fact, our ego, our one-upmanship over other defeats the angel, but this victory is temporary. The angel will come back because we are human beings. To be human, we require both the Angel and the Evil. Otherwise, we can never get the opportunity to ask ourselves: “What kind of a person I want to be?”