Despite all the characteristics and similarities which my mother and I share, I will never live up to her beautiful and radiant example. Although the way in which the corner of our eyes crinkle when we smile may be the same, my mother possesses a humble meekness which is all her own. When I think about my wonderful mother all I can focus on are our differences: how I wish my voice was as sincere, how I hope that someday I’ll be as confident, how I wish, if only I was still as naive, innocent, good,...as she still is.
I have learned over the years of striving to live up to my mother’s praiseworthy image that if it were not for the differences between us I would not have the same degree of profound respect and love for her. Her goodness which radiates through the tone of her voice, her smile, her actions surpasses my own feeble attempts at goodness. For, all the moments I can not relate to my mother, are the moments where I strive to better myself to become more like my mother, to essentially love better. It seems I tend to merely like what I can relate to but I love what I can not always relate to. My friend tells me that she too, often argues with her parents and I find the fact that we sin in common very relatable and agreeable. Yet, my friend’s example does not inspire me to better myself despite that fact that I find her relatable. However, when I witness my mother avoid watching a television show that I myself would not have avoided watching, I marvel at her integrity, a integrity which I sometimes lack. I may not be able to always relate to my mother’s attributes but her example inspires me to gain those attributes which I sometimes lack. I may like my friend’s relatableness but I love my mothers ideal goodness. There is a greater depth and profundity to the respect I have for my mother because she is an example of the goodness which I aspire to achieve.
If my mother sought to become more relatable to me and morally stoop down to my level I would no longer have a source of motivation to better myself. Her goodness which transcends my own is a beacon in the dark which beckons me to transcend my mediocrity. Her goodness is crucial in my life, for by it I can clearly see the imperfections of the world around me. How tragic would our lives be if amidst the chaos, selfishness, and suffering there were no moments of true goodness radiating from moral human beings as a source of hope. When a stranger risks his life to save his fellow man from great peril, most would respond with, "there's hope for humanity!" Without these clear examples of goodness could anyone even be moral?
Too often there are lesser goods and even things which are very much morally wrong which distract me and entice me. However, at the end of the long day of temptations, sinning, and losing hope, the goodness I find in my mother remains and I respond. I respond to her goodness with love. It seems that the two go hand in hand. Dietrich von Hildebrand in The Art of Living beautifully describes this as such;
"Love is, as it were, flowing goodness, and goodness is the breath of love" (pg. 48).
Hildebrand appoints goodness as the queen of all virtues. Goodness is at the very center of the moral life and is its most sublime fruit.(pg.48) There is no better way to respond to goodness, ‘the fruit of fruits’, the fruit from which all other fruits grow, than with love. When I love my mother, she stands before me: precious and noble. Not because of her attributes or characteristics but because she, as a human being, possesses intrinsic preciousness and contains value in and of herself. My love for her is not wrapped up in a specific word spoken. On the contrary, my love for her is a gift of my heart to her. Due to my great love for her I wish to protect her, cherish her, and heap only good things upon her (pg.49).
Consider the many moments in our lives when you are grateful for the example of goodness expressed by another. Whether it is the doctor who sincerely cares for the health of your dying child or the man before you in the drive thru who pays for your meal. Now consider how many times you have responded to goodness in general. It seems that we take goodness for granted and fail to respond whatsoever, let alone respond with love. Often we complain about the morally corrupt state of our neighbor, our society, our country, our world. We hypocritically chastise and blame those who we believe to be the root of immorality and corruption.
In the words of one Michael Jackson song "start with the man in the mirror." When we witness the goodness of another we must respond with veneration, gratitude, obedience and love. Likewise, we must respond to the morally good action. It is when circumstances are covered in darkness and you are steeped in the thick mud of temptation that the intrinsic beauty of goodness must be affirmed, defended, and protected. J.R.R. Tolkien's readers would have been appalled if on the way to Mount Doom to destroy the ring, Frodo would have given up, and succumbed to the tempting powers of the ring. Tolkien's stories would not have had the same impact upon his readers if there were not sources of goodness which radiated through the darkness: examples like Galadriel, Gandalf, Frodo and Samwise. That which radiates goodness should be responded to with gratitude and love. It would be shameful if I did not respond to the goodness of my beloved mother. Surely, it is tragic when one spits in the face of goodness.
What would this world come to without goodness? When dark and evil times come to pass who will be there to ensure that goodness still remains?
Image 1: source
Image 2: sourceQuotes and Paraphrases: Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Art of Living (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1965) 48-49.