Stimulate the heart to love, and all other virtues will rise of their own accord. – W. T. Ussery
This is a thinly sourced quote, apparently from a book titled Sermons, from the Baptist Publishing Company, Nashville, Tennessee, from 1912. I still don’t have a bio for him. Does anyone have any information on him?
What does that mean?
This is an interesting quote, in that it is tangential to Cicero’s quote, claiming that gratitude was the greatest virtue, and one from Clare Boothe Luce, claiming that courage is the basis of all the other virtues.
But let’s consider that for a moment. How well do they work together? We have, as contenders for the first-among-equals in virtue love, gratitude, and courage. The connection between love and gratitude is fairly straight forward. The link between courage and love can be seen in this post.
In short, I consider all three to be aspects of a critical portion of what it takes to be a virtuous person, no matter when in time you live. From Cicero’s day to today and every day in-between, love, backed by courage and gratitude, is the backbone of a good person.
Why is love important?
Think of all the different virtues you have in your life. How many of them would be enhanced with just a little more love? But how, you might wonder, does love make someone more honest? That’s a good question, so let’s think about it for a moment.
What do you have to think of yourself or of the other person to casually lie, or worse yet, deliberately lie to them? Is that an act of love for either yourself or for them? I don’t think so. If you were to love both yourself and them, be grateful, and even show a little courage, it just wouldn’t happen anywhere near as often, would it?
Think about that. What if you loved yourself, as well as the other person. Perhaps even all of humanity. How many of your vices would disappear, and how many of your virtues would be improved? I imagine the list would be pretty long. How is your mental list doing? Are you starting to see how many, if not most, of your virtues are enhanced by love?
Where can I apply this in my life?
Think again of the virtues you said would be improved if you were to act with more love. Grab some paper and write a few of them down. More than a few, if you desire. Also write down a vice or two or three which could be reduced if you loved yourself or others a little more.
Take a moment to look at the list, and see if any of them could be grouped. By that, I mean if you were to do something that might improve more than one of your listed virtues (or diminish one or more vices). The idea is to try to find the one place where a single action could improve as many areas in your life as possible.
Once you have determined with which one you want to start, all you have to do is consider why you are doing this action. “Because a blog said I should” isn’t going to be much help the first time you aren’t really feeling in the mood to work on your love, right?
The stronger the reason, and the more certain that you are that not only will you achieve your goal, but that it will make a big change in your life and the lives of others, the more likely you are to actually do it. Life has a way of popping up and interfering with your plans, right?
So, when it comes time to have to cancel something you want to do for this exercise in love, you need a reason bigger than the reason you want to do what you are going to cancel, right? Take a moment and think about how your life will be better once you more love for yourself and others.
Then take a little time and consider how much you don’t want to continue the way you are, or (worse yet) slide downward in any way. Once you have a pretty good idea why you want to do it, and why you can’t afford to allow things to continue as they are, you’re ready to start.
What kinds of things do you have to change? Do you have to change your attitude towards yourself? Towards others? Specific others, groups of others, or all humanity? What might you have to change in habits or attitudes towards yourself or others? How will you show yourself or others your love, your gratitude, or your courage?
The rest of the journey will be personal, and you will have to determine what is the correct path for you to travel. You might not be ready for a big step right at the beginning. In that case, take smaller steps, but by all means, do something. Even something small.
We all have room for improvement. The only question is will we take the time to plan what changes we make, or will we allow that to be done strictly by chance? I, as you might guess, favor examination followed by action.