The differences in human life depend, for the most part, not on what people do, but upon the meaning and purpose of their acts. All are born, all die, all lose their loved ones, nearly all marry and nearly all work, but the significance of these acts may vary enormously. The same physical act may be in one situation vulgar and in another holy. The same work may be elevating or degrading. The major question is not “What action do I perform?” but “In what frame do I put it?” Wisdom about life consists in taking the inevitable ventures which are the very stuff of common existence and glorifying them. -Elton Trueblood
Elton gives us a very high standard to reach for–that of making sure that the significance of our acts is of extremely high importance to us. It’s important that we think not just “What am I doing?,” but also “Why am I doing it?” Am I trying to help this person because the person needs my help, or am I trying to look good in the eyes of others? Am I trying to convince this person to do something because I truly believe that it’s best for him or her, or do I want to know there’s someone else who agrees with me, and who’s doing the same thing I’ve done?
Our days are filled with actions and reactions, and it’s up to us to determine the significance of them, to determine which of the motivating forces within us we follow, for the outcomes of our actions will be much different if we’re true to what we know is best than if we allow a motivating force such as greed or resentment cause us to act in a certain way.
What I do today can be holy, or it can be vulgar. It can be truly helpful to others, or it can be helpful on my terms only, in my way only. I have a lot to do today, and what I do can be truly positive, contributing to the good of the world, or it can be tainted by my desire to try to impose my own will into the results of my actions. The meaning of what I do will long outlive the results themselves, whether they be positive or negative, and my hope is that my strong positive intentions win out and help to make my actions holy.
Questions to consider:
- What sorts of “holy” actions have you contributed to the world?
- Think of a recent action of yours–what was the significance of that action? To yourself? To someone else? To the world in general?
- Who determines whether an action is vulgar or holy?
Is such a judgment always right?
For further thought:
Forget about likes and dislikes.
They are of no consequence.
Just do what must be done.
This may not be happiness, but it is greatness.
George Bernard Shaw