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 ITS OWN REWARD-Most of us have encountered the phrase “Virtue is its own reward,” at some point or another while going on this journey called, life. It sounds nice doesn't it? Much like the phrase “it is better to give than receive” sounds like an uplifting little add-on, to tack on to our everyday lives, every now and then. Virtue being its own reward is about much more though than a nice platitude, to help us go about the business of every day life. It is really a fundamental way of how we see the world our, “worldview.” It gets in to the heart of two contradictory ways of approaching life and I will go into detail in just a bit.

You see, I fall heavily on one side of the two approaches I am about to examine. Being firmly in one camp is why I tend to get a bit upset when I hear speakers talk about a certain section of a library of books, many of us hold as sacred, as “platitudes to help us with the struggles of the common and ordinary things we all face everyday!” No, No, No, it is not! It is almost from start to finish, about making a choice to follow one way of life as opposed to another, one of wisdom or one of foolishness. This choice determines everything and it goes much deeper than surface level or “everyday,” concerns.

Okay, what does “virtue is its own reward,” really mean anyhow? What is virtue and what does it mean to be virtuous? The definition of virtue according to Merriam-Webster is – a particular moral excellence or living to a high standard of moral integrity and character. So when talking about virtue, it is something that is ennobling, something that adds dignity or compassion to the world . To sum it up, a virtue is something that lifts us a little closer to the kingdom of heaven.

The part about it being its own reward is really in opposition to another motivation for doing something and that is, “ for the reward you will get later on!” That right there, in a nutshell, is the philosophy we are going to examine today, internal motivations; doing something because the act itself is a noble and gratifying way to go about life, or external motivations; whether you are doing something because you expect some pay-off or reward in the future. Its own reward means the very act itself, the concept of being virtuous or acting in a morally benevolent way is enough, on its own merits. It swells your heart, it enriches your soul, however you want to put it, it does not need anything else to be satisfying, even joyful. It is not a, “whats in it for me” proposition, where you do something you rather not do or find not to be gratifying but feel compelled to do it anyway, either out of fear of punishment or promise of a disproportional reward.

That right there, boils down to two radically different ways of being in this world, it affects absolutely every area we interact with. It is a theme, or a paradigm, which if you have been following this column, you have seen subtle hints pointing in that direction many times before. It is what I will call the intrinsic versus the extrinsic way of doing life. I am going to offer the opinions of a few others from here on out, so you don't think I am out on a limb all by myself, just grabbing this stuff out of thin air.

Let's start with one of my passions and that is how we go about acquiring wisdom and knowledge or another term for that would be-education. Recently, while with some friends, I brought up a subject I had been pondering on for a while and that is how many of us appreciate the ability to be both critical thinking and creative and how we especially hope that ability is something our children acquire. I made the observation that we seem to be accepting methods which are almost guaranteed to prevent that from happening though. We put our children in rows like a crop, demand silence and attention from them, while we force feed what knowledge and wisdom we say they need, at what amount and to our schedule and deem anyone rebelling against such a system as either “lazy” or a “troublemaker!”

Here is one of those other thoughts I told you about. According to the national council for excellence in Critical Thinking.

“Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth and fairness.”

So critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined way of thinking, which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality, in a fair-minded way. So, if this is the goal, along with inspiring creativity, why do we want to force feed wisdom and knowledge to our youth like it is a hardship they have to endure, “for their own good”. When I shared my thoughts I heard some observations such as children being actually happier with rules and boundaries set in place. I don't dispute that, I just question whether we want to equate gaining knowledge with a distasteful chore. I also made an example about being able to pick what particular topic I wanted to explore during my own youth. The observation of repercussions or consequences for exploring nothing at all was touched upon. That is the dividing line, the two different paradigms or worldviews. The consequence or fear of punishment way of looking at the world versus inspiring curiosity for its own sake, the gift of knowledge as its own intrinsic reward, not something we get through as a means to an end. We are born curious creatures, it is only when others turn it into a chore that curiosity gets stomped out of us.

That is the path of the wise, talked about in those sacred writings I mentioned earlier. Wisdom is its own reward, it has its own merit, worth pursuing for its own sake, those same writings contrast it with the way of the “foolish” who deem wisdom a chore to acquire.

Now, let's move onto matters of faith. A Harvard psychologist named Gordon Allport did some key research in the 1950s on various kinds of human prejudice and came up with a definition of religiosity that is still in use today. He suggested that there were two types of religious commitment - extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic religiosity he defined as religious self-centeredness. Such a person goes to church or synagogue as a means to an end - for what they can get out of it. They might go to church to be seen, because it is the social norm in their society, conferring respectability or social advancement. Going to church (or synagogue) becomes a social convention

Allport thought that intrinsic religiosity was different. He identified a group of people who were intrinsically religious, seeing their religion as an end in itself. They tended to be more deeply committed; religion became the organizing principle of their lives, a central and personal experience. In support of his research, Allport found that prejudice was more common in those individuals who scored highly for extrinsic religion.

Simply put, an intrinsic (I) religious orientation is described as being more mature in that the believer views religion as an end into itself. That is, the believer believes without clearly identifiable external motives for doing so. In contrast, an extrinsic (E) religious orientation is immature and is more of a means to some other end. That is, belief is motivated by external factors (e.g., social acceptance, advancement, etc.). E (but not I) is correlated with prejudice.

Remember those are the thoughts of Gordon Allport, not my own, so if you disagree, take it up with him. It does reinforce my own concept of chasing a relationship with God for its own sake though, because living without that relationship is its own consequence and having that relationship is its own reward, following out of fear or guilt, or expectation of a reward, is a totality different approach to life itself.

Work is the same way, when you approach it as finding something you're passionate about, something that gives you a sense of accomplishment, instead of just a chore to get through, just to receive as much money as possible, in order to buy you “things” to make you happy; is two radically different approaches.

I know which one I choose. I will always go with the intrinsic, instead of the extrinsic, the internal over the external, the inspirational over the motivational, the “wise path,” the journey of maturity; for I have, “put away the thoughts of a child” yet kept the curiosity. Me and my household choose Love over Fear, how about you?



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