Learn to Awaken the Quieter Virtues
- Monday, November 01, 2010
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Gregory H. Spencer's book, Awakening the Quieter Virtues, (InterVarsity Press, 2010).
So much clamors for your attention in this noisy world that it often takes something loud - like a courageous act of sacrifice - to get you to notice one of God's virtues at work. But while quieter virtues can get lost in the noise around you, they're just as powerful as more dramatic virtues to help you become the person God wants you to be.
So awaken the quiet virtues in your life. Here's how:
Awaken the virtue of discernment through the discipline of attentiveness. Discernment will help you use the wisdom God gives you to make choices that will lead to life rather than to death. Discerning what's best when facing decisions motivates you to choose what will draw you closer to God (leading to life) instead of what will pull you away from Him (leading to death). The spiritual discipline of attentiveness will help you develop discernment by training you to think positive, healthy thoughts that reflect biblical truth while casting aside unhealthy, unbiblical thoughts that enter your mind. When you've learned how to concentrate on the right thoughts, you can discern how to make the right decisions.
Awaken the virtue of innocence through the discipline of advocacy. Innocence will give you a sense of justice that sets good things free and binds up evil. Innocence leads to greater purity that draws you closer to God and helps you see life more from His perspective, so you can recognize what's truly just and unjust. The spiritual discipline of advocacy will train you to defend innocence by challenging whatever attacks it with reasonable evidence and arguments. When you've learned how to advocate for what's right, you can guard the innocence that empowers you and others to break away from sin and live in freedom.
Awaken the virtue of authenticity through the discipline of real presence. Authenticity will lead to a rigorous inside-out consistency that courageously cares for others. If you learn how to be the person you say you are and do what you say you will, your authenticity will bless others. The discipline of real presence will train you be fully and sincerely in the moment, aware of God's presence with you, knowing yourself accurately, and being genuine and sincere with other people. When you've learned how to live in the present well, you'll be able to speak and act authentically in all situations.
Awaken the virtue of modesty through the discipline of timely remembrance. Modesty will help you gladly temper the expression of your fullness with an understanding of your emptiness. The discipline of timely remembrance -recounting the truth about your past experiences - will help you practice modesty in your motives, speech, appearance, and touch, because it will bring to mind an accurate view of yourself. When you've learned how to examine yourself and discover who you truly are before God, and when you remember that when you're interacting with others, you'll be able to speak and act modestly.
Awaken the virtue of reverence through the discipline of astonishment. Reverence involves kneeling before the sacred and standing up to the profane. The spiritual discipline of astonishment will train you to recognize God's extraordinary work in the midst of the ordinary moments you experience, and to respond with awe, gratitude, and joy, which are all important ways of expressing reverence for God's holiness and power.
Awaken the virtue of contentment through the discipline of "ars morendi." Contentment will give you the hope you need to pursue the unsatisfied life in a satisfying way. Life is difficult in this fallen world, so you don't need to pretend that all is well. Instead, you can acknowledge the limitations of this life and seek God's help to respond to them well by embracing the hope He offers you. God's hope doesn't depend on your circumstances; it rests on His assurance that He will always be with you, working everything out for the best when you place your trust in Him. So you don't need to worry or be envious of others. The spiritual discipline of "ars morendi" - the art of dying well - will train you to put your selfish desires to death so you'll be free to accept the life that God has willed for you to experience. As you surrender your own agenda and embrace life as it really is rather than as you wish it was, and as you invite God to teach you what He wants you to learn from your circumstances, you can break free from the burden of constantly wanting more and experience contentment that will lead to peace.
Awaken the virtue of generosity through the discipline of compassionate imagination. Generosity will help you love God and other people openhandedly, which reflects the wholehearted way that God expresses His love for you. When you're generous, you'll be able to love fully, richly, and deeply, and it will be a joy, rather than a duty, for you to do so. The spiritual discipline of compassionate imagination will help you to become more generous as you imagine the pain that people in need are suffering and the grace God has given to you to be in a position to help them. Imitating Jesus' empathy for others will help you develop a willingness to say "yes" when God calls you to be generous to people in need - with your money, your time, your praise, your forgiveness, and in any other way God urges you to express generosity.
Gregory H. Spencer (Ph.D., University of Oregon) is professor of communication studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, where he has taught since 1987. A frequent speaker at various churches and college campuses around the country, he is also the author of A Heart for Truth: Taking Your Faith to College, as well as two novels, The Welkening and Guardian of the Veil. He has been married to Janet for more than 30 years, and they have three daughters in their 20s.
Publication date: November 1, 2010
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