The qualities listed in Galatians 5:22 are called “fruits” of the Spirit, fruits as I see it being the yield or result of a plant (life) that’s growing in the right direction with the aid of being planted in the best location, constant feedings of nutritious food, sufficient waterings, necessary prunings, etc.
A bit of food for thought about virtues…I’m sure you’ve heard about the problem with humility…such an elusive virtue. Like the guy they awarded the big fancy gold pin that said Modesty Award, but then had to take it back because he actually wore it, I’m trying to determine how I know that my efforts toward becoming a better person are succeeding. I’m not talking about a superior attitude or making a show of magnanimous gestures, but solemn effort spent of my own resources.
In that regard, I spend time wondering at the virtues I strive to master; to imbue, instill, to become so much a part of me that (on a lighter note) my picture is beside that word in the dictionary. That’s not an egotistical desire; there’s certainly nothing wrong with striving to be kind, gracious, generous, giving, loving, in fact all of those are basically the things we’re instructed to pursue in Galatians: “…Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
There’s a fine line though, between striving to become that virtue and wanting to be noticed for acting that way. It sickens me to see those who (you can read it on their faces and in their attitudes) are ‘Super Christians’ who can do no wrong…they remind me of the old cliché from Bible College days, (chanted with sarcasm) “we don’t smoke or drink or chew, and we don’t go with guys that do.” That attitude surely smacks of the old Pharisee, doesn’t it? That’s not at all what I’m looking for, in fact that’s exactly the trap I’m afraid of falling into if I’m not very careful!
As far as actions, one proven way to gain a practice is to fake it till you make it. Right? The old ’21 days repetitively a new habit doth make.’ After all, a common counseling technique says when you’re working on caring more for someone than you do, simply acting as though you do will usually cause that feeling to grow…because doing kindnesses for another person leads your heart to caring for their welfare, their happiness. And also makes you feel (for lack of a better word) virtuous, that you’ve accomplished something commendable.
So a part of wanting to serve others ends up in pride and satisfaction at my own accomplishment of good works on their behalf. And that’s where I get confused.
The only time I’ve come to realize that I’ve really accomplished the change in personality that I’ve been striving seriously for is when someone would be surprised that I would bother to do whatever it was that touched them…giving to them, yielding my right to a position or advantage, etc. When they were pleased that it was second nature to me to give of my time and efforts, then I realized I’d accomplished my goal.
Oops. Here, somebody take my Modesty button. Darn it. Start over.