Defining virtues based on goals and performance are two very different things. Intention and action while sometimes congruent often are unrecognizable from one another in reality. If I were an author penning my ideal life narrative, I would write myself as an ambitious, compassionate, and creative person. I’d write myself as an idyllic character—the one each and every reader is rooting for. In that narrative, I’d make the choices with singularity of heart and with the best diplomatic solution in mind. The character in the book would have it all together, but not in a prideful success-driven way, but a way in which leaves the character feeling at ease and free to help others in their times of need. This version of myself would never pass rash judgement or complete tasks out of selfish ambition—but rather act as a harmonious liaison between God and the people around me. At this point in my life, this version of myself seems like the person I want to be. However, based upon the actual narrative of my life, this woman does not exist.
Instead, I am fiercely independent and head-strong. I say all of the wrong things, and hurt people’s feelings. Instead of committing to loyally loving the people around me, I profit on creating humor from their shortcomings to the benefit of my own self-esteem. I’m rotten to the core, and at times it seems that the inevitability of the evil within my being will overwhelm me. I procrastinate, I cheat, and I lie. Just when I’m sure I’ll be taken under by the wickedness that oozes from my thoughts and actions, I remember that I’m not beyond salvation.
In this life, I’ve been entrusted with the love of some of the best people on planet Earth. I have parents that taught me generosity in the midst of hard financial times, and love me even when there is no beauty to be found in my behavior. I am lead by some of the brightest men and women ever, who always show me grace when I truly do not deserve it. My friends fill my life with laughter and joy even when depression seems to weigh me down like a lead blanket. Considering all things, the good in my life certainly overwhelms the bad on any given day of the week. No matter how dismal my outlook becomes, there is always a still small glowing light of redemption—no disaster is too far removed from the rejoicing that this life has brought me.
So, if one were to outline my life’s narrative based upon the virtues I’ve embodied throughout my twenty-one years I believe they would see one virtue standing taller than the rest: redemption. Without the stains left upon the pages of my story by horrible things in my past, present, and future there would be no evidence of the power of the good in my life to shine brighter than any of my mistakes or trauma. Life is not ideal, and this world is not paradise—but when I slow down to evaluate the wonder that I have to learn more about how to find the good in the world, I find myself hopeful after all.