It is written in the book of Proverbs,”Though the virtuous man falls seven times a day, he stands up again.” (Prov. 24:16). We tend to think of virtue as a “freedom from weakness.” Yet, in these inspired words of Holy Scripture the virtuous man is described as one who has the faith and courage to get up and try again after having failed. Too many people see virtue only in its perfect performance. To them, the only true virtue is the achieved power to overcome weakness. However, it often requires great virtue to work toward a worthy goal with a realistic desire to do as well as possible, even though one knows that the results will be far from perfect.
One reason why people shy away from most forms of self-discipline, is their inability to tolerate partial success. If they make a resolution, they expect to fulfill it at once and to perfection. Blessed is he who is realistic enough to :
1. strive for whatever success he can achieve
2. accept unwanted limitations or occasional failures as part of his total effort.
Moreover, virtue is not restricted exclusively to the religious or supernatural level of human behaviour. There are good habits acquired through the frequent repetition of well-motivated acts. This repetition fulfills one’s felt needs or wants so well, as to make the performance of morally good acts easy. Thus, both natural virtues and supernatural virtues are principles of action. They differ, however, in three aspects:
1. In their origin: Natural virtues are acquired by the satisfying repetition of the same acts. Supernatural virtues are infused into the human spirit together with sanctifying grace.
2. In their manner of operation: The natural virtues, through their frequent desired repetition of the same acts, give one a facility of producing the acts readily and with a sense of pleasure. The supernatural virtues give man the “power” to produce good supernatural acts together with a certain “tendency” toward producing these acts; but man is still obliged to develop his own facility through voluntary practice.
3. In their purpose: Natural virtues seek man’s natural well-being, and thereby direct him toward the God of Nature, ie, God in His natural gifts here on earth. Supernatural virtue seeks man’s total well-being, both natural and supernatural, and thereby directs man toward the God of Revelation, with His “Good News” of divine love, redemption, adoption and sanctification in this earthly life together with an expectation of resurrection into eternal life.
Thus, while all virtues look to man’s fufillment, natural virtues seek it here and now, whereas supernatural virtues look to man’s fulfillment both here and hereafter, now and forever. When one’s temporal well-being is in conflict with his eternal well-being, his supernatural virtues incline him to prefer his most complete and most enduring fulfillment. With the help of God’s grace and sufficient practice, any man can improve his self-possession and self-management better than he ever could through natural habits alone. In other words, God’s supernatural help brings you a greater degree of integration between your grace-inspired thinking and your natural reason, and also between your natural emotional leanings and your grace-supported choices.