Many of us take great pride in being virtuous, but our virtues are worthless if kept to ourselves. We must share our morality with each other as much as possible. Extending our excellence as human beings inspires others to follow suit, causing a ripple effect of consciousness. And very soon, we begin to notice that the people around us also modify their thoughts, intentions, actions, all because we have set an example for them. We're quick to share our opinions and critiques with the world, but if only we shared our virtues instead, perhaps we would resolve our problems much more easily.
Three days ago, my 20-year-old cat, Bebe, passed away quite suddenly. Given, Bebe lived a long and healthy life, and I was well aware that her time to go drew near. But there was something special about Bebe, a certain curious way in which she sat at the foot of my bed and simply stared at me, as if her sparkling black eyes could communicate the secrets of the universe.
As any animal lover will say of their pet, Bebe was more than a cat. She was my secret inspiration. Bebe had aged into a little old lady in front of my eyes, and with her years came an inevitable inheritance of wisdom. Bebe displayed several virtues which simply stunned me -- integrity which I didn't think an animal could know.
Consider these five virtues I learned from a very unlikely source and reflect on their role in your own life:
Presence. Our presence alone can be a virtue. When we offer our presence to someone in need, we offer our time to spend, our ears to listen, and our advice to guide. And sometimes that's all a person ever needs to see them through a difficult time. Bebe instinctively knew to lay right next to me whenever I wasn't feeling well. Her silent yet powerful presence soothed me. The next time a loved one reaches out to you with a problem, simply give them a bit of your time, a small piece of you, and know that this can make a world of a difference.
Patience. Bebe would wait in the kitchen for hours until I got home to feed her. She never whined or became distressed -- she simply waited. In our own lives, we can incorporate patience by understanding that it's okay to wait. It's okay to let someone else go in front of you, it's okay to wait for someone who's late, and it's okay to make mistakes until you get it right. Remember also to have patience with yourself. Respond to ignorance with patience and you will grow to understand the actions of others.
Devotion. A step above loyalty, devotion is the art of undying dedication. Bebe demonstrated devotion by never straying from the house. Show your loved ones that you are devoted to them: your spouse, your children, your friends, etc. A large part of devotion is continuing to display loyalty even when someone has let you down. Don't give up on others so easily -- your devotion to them will be rewarded in time.
Observation. Bebe grew immune to her five rambunctious housemates. As they wrestled and warred against each other, Bebe kept her distance and surveyed the other animals' behavior with quiet tolerance and acceptance. As such, the best way to detach from conflict is by choosing not to become involved in it in the first place. At times it is best to observe and not engage. We must see the world around us through peaceful and nonjudgmental eyes, choosing instead to learn from outside battles rather than participate in them.
Healing. We have an extraordinary capacity to heal each other, though we rarely use it. Our ability to heal is delivered to others through a simple and underrated method. It's called love. And if it's unconditional, it can help us overcome our greatest challenges. Bebe continued to love me through my woes and worries; her degree of attachment wasn't influenced by my appearance or finances. Though you may not always receive it in return, practice unconditional love to help elevate and spiritually nourish the people in your life.
Virtues are our moral duties to each other and to ourselves. And as with any other precious element of life, virtues must be shared to be felt. Extend your highest virtues, your greatest parts of your self, and gift them to the world to feel them grow in your heart.
Dr. Carmen Harra
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