Sunday, March 20, 2011

Potential for Good = Desire x Skills

The basic formula is: Potential for Good = Desire x Skills

Or in long form: Amount of good I can do = My desire for good x My skills

I think I made this one up – at least, if I stole it from anyone I no longer remember who.

Being good is a nontrivial task, guys. If I learned nothing else from my mission I learned this. Being good is a nontrivial task. And you cannot settle for mediocrity in this area. Neither the world nor your soul can afford it.

There are two main components. First is getting your heart right, earnestly having within yourself the desire to do good. The second step is to practice that desire, developing your skills to do good.

So if you want to do good, what kind of skills should you develop?

I’ve thought a lot about this; one of my deepest desires is to change the world, or some part thereof, in a significant way for good. I need to focus on purifying my heart and building my skills.

At the bottom, though; desire is the key.

It may involve external sacrifices of time and money to get yourself in a good place (such as going on a mission, joining Teach for America; taking the lower salary to become a human rights lawyer.)

It will certainly involve internal sacrifices of pride, require admitting faults and weaknesses, be at times emotionally painful, and require perseverance.

What could motivate you to pay the cost?

Two things are essential.
(1)You must desire the reward.
(2)You must believe it is possible.

For me, these preconditions are motivated, in part, by my faith.

Desirability. Central to our existence, I believe is our purpose to “become perfect, even as our Father in Heaven is perfect.”

(That’s Christ speaking, in the Sermon on the Mount. This will, of course, take a long time. It certainly won’t all happen in this life. Perfect, in the Greek, is also translated "complete, finished, fully developed.)

Possibility. I love how Christ puts it here:

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27, Book of Mormon)

But religious belief is not a necessary condition; only desiring self-improvement and believing it is possible.

So how do you go about acquiring skills to do good?

The old saws apply here. We start with the innermost qualities and proceed outwards. We are changed within first; we flee from evil thoughts; are filled with hope and love for others. These private victories are followed by public victories.

I break up this series in multiple parts, following this pattern.

Introduction: Potential for Good = Desire x Skills (this)
Level 1: Purifying your heart (desire)
Level 2: Spiritually-rooted skills (A)
Level 3: Spiritually-rooted skills (B)

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