American virtue is receiving a lot of attention. Finally, we are awakening to the fact that in our haste to make ourselves fat, rich and over-educated, we have neglected our personhood, our humanity, our goodness, our souls.
Professionals, in all disciplines, are asking the questions, “How do we begin to fix it?” “Where can we put the best effort to achieve results quickly?” In what has become an “American tradition”, the blame for the problem and the responsibility for fixing it, belongs to someone, “someone else, somewhere else”. Blame is fixed first and foremost with parents. Psychologists tell us that it is we, the parents who create positive or negative environments. We are the single MOST important role modeling a child receives. I agree. As a parent I cannot pass this responsibility off. There are no excuses. We hold the trust of these small people, our children. Each idea that transcends their formative, evolving intellects and spirits is influenced by us. We are more powerful than God in the evolution of our children. We are, however, a part of the society in which we live and, unfortunately, not God, but human. Therefore, let us look at the causes, not to fix blame, but to increase awareness and seek solutions.
America is alive. As a living resource, it is constantly in transition and transition is a process. Issues are not resolved instantly. Over the past 25 years many transitional forces were at work in America: women began to look for their own identity within themselves–this was and is necessary for growth. The repercussion of women’s search created a disturbance to the accepted routine and the general function of the home. During this same time, the standard of success in America and, consequently, the driving force for many men–some of whom were married to those women seeking their own identity–was education, education, education. The single focus of securing this abundance of education was to convert it to money and power. Although women may have initially sought an identity separate from that delegated to them by their husbands, mothers, fathers, etc., they subsequently subscribed to the same criteria as men, i.e., career success equals identity.
The environment described above may be an over simplification, but the presence of these conditions over the last several decades cannot be disputed. Was it bad? We didn’t think so. Nor did we set out to remove our focus from honesty, dignity, discipline, honor, trust and benevolence. We believed we possessed these values and that they would remain untouched during our pursuit of self-identification. It was inconceivable to us that it would be necessary to intrinsically cultivate and constantly reaffirm our morality during the exploration. There was no preparation for the overwhelming power of what became our materialistic focus. For many of us, the search was and continues to be unconscious. Insidious as drug addiction, success orientation slowly invaded our value system. Regretfully, we are unaware that the identity we so desperately sought existed within us, and not in money, houses, power and careers.
It is the self-environment we must begin to restore. When the self-understanding is healthy, erosion of a person’s value system cannot exist.
BUT HOW do we achieve this goal? We cannot return to college and take a course. There are no credentials for teachers. Only those who possess positive self evaluation can assist other, “If you do not own a loaf of bread, you cannot give half of it to another.”
The work belongs to us. To each of us individually. There are no short cuts, no quick fixes, no kluging, no hacks, only diligent attention to distinguishing honesty, genuineness, benevolence and goodness in ourselves and others. We cannot ask the schools to teach virtue. Nor can we expect our churches to restore it. It begins and ends in each of us. It is a resource, which lives, a process that requires transition. It must be nurtured and developed, but most of all, it must be given to each and every individual we touch in our lives.