Flipping through the television channels the other evening, I stopped at one of the many that I refer to as the “God channels”—meaning that they are exclusively Christian-based programming. A middle-aged female had the stage and she was offering a lively blend of humor and sermon to a large audience about what it means to be Christian. I was impressed with her candor and courage to speak about the Christian community needing to reinvent itself and step up to the plate: to act like true “Christians.” She chastised people for the petty bickering and gossip so prevalent in the ministries she knew, and reminded the audience that to truly be Christian is to be forgiving, joyful, peaceable, committed, (etc), and requires self-control—meaning, that we each need to take responsibility for behavior. She concluded by saying, “Love God for who he is, and not for what he can do for you.” And I realized that these words hold great wisdom for all, regardless of our inclination toward either religion or spirituality.
So often the self-improvement bandwagon entices us with promises about what we will personally achieve from our inner ministering, rather than loving the virtues themselves. After all, most of us have something in our lives that we want to change or improve, so it’s an easy sell. And while there is nothing wrong with setting goals, or aspiring toward a more favorable outcome as a result of our self-improvement, what truly strengthens and reshapes us at our core is when we keep practicing being more joyful, or more peaceable, or more forgiving, rather than achieving a specific end result. The virtues themselves are the constant, the immutable principles that expand our minds and open our hearts, that connect us to whatever we conceive of as divine, and allow the possibility of something different—better—to manifest as our experience. I think I’ll call love, peace-building, and forgiveness the God channels from now on!