Patience

On Reading Well

Karen Swallow Prior

Chapter Ten
Persuasion
By Jane Austen

 

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.

Ecclesiastes 7:8


Chapter Ten of Karen Swallow Prior’s On Reading Well examines the virtue of Patience with examples drawn from Jane Austen’s Persuasion

As Karen wrote

Like all virtues, patience is the mean between an excess and a deficiency. The excessive vice related to suffering is wrath. Evil and suffering should result in a righteous anger. To fulfill the admonition of Paul to “be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26 ESV) requires patience that is the fruit of the Spirit. Patience is a virtue, not in overlooking wrong, but in refusing to do wrong in overcoming wrong. But untempered by patience, such an impulse becomes wrath. On the deficient side of the scale is a lack of spirit or carelessness or sloth. If in the face of evil or suffering one simply does not care, no patience is required. But such lack of care is, like wrath, a vice. Patience is not inaction. As the Bible says in James 5:11, patience is not passivity but perseverance. When faced with suffering or wrong, the virtuous person responds neither with wrath nor with stoicism but with patience. A person who has true patience is “angrily virtuous,”whether that means giving time for the emotional heat to subside before acting or simply waiting for the slow wheels of justice to turn.

What, beyond waiting, are the necessary components of the virtue of patience?

 

On Reading Well

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Diligence

On Reading Well

Karen Swallow Prior

Chapter Nine
Pilgrim's Progress
By John Bunyan

And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Hebrews 6:11-12


Chapter Nine of Karen Swallow Prior’s On Reading Well examines the virtue of Diligence with examples drawn from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress

As Karen wrote

In the Bible, diligence is often presented in contrast to its opposite, sloth. For example, Proverbs 12:24 says, “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute” (KJV). Sloth has received considerable examination by moral philosophers, so to understand the virtue of diligence, it’s helpful to examine its opposing vice of deficiency.

Sloth is commonly thought of as laziness, but it’s much more than that. (We saw in chapter 6 that sloth opposes magnanimity, for example.) Sloth involves not only a lack of effort but also a lack of care. In fact, the Greek word for sloth, acedia, literally means “without care” or “careless.” It’s similar to a word we use more commonly today, apathy.

How do diligence and apathy show up in contemporary society?

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Chastity

On Reading Well

Karen Swallow Prior

Chapter Eight 
Ethan Frome
By Edith Wharton

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

~Matthew 5:27-28


Chapter Eight of Karen Swallow Prior’s On Reading Well examines the virtue of Chastity with examples drawn from Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome.  All virtue is related to one’s deeds, but chastity includes the will of another.  On examination, it can be said to include the will of many.

As Karen wrote

Lauren Winner explains, “The community is not so much cop as it is storyteller, telling and retelling the foundational stories that make sense of the community’s norms.” Marriage is not only about mutual companionship and romantic love, but it is the institution “out of which cultures and societies are formed.” Marriage “is about children, and household economy, and stability. And marriage is also about God.” Marriage forms a little society. And the health of that little society depends to some degree on the health of the larger surrounding society.

Unlike abstention, an act of an individual, chastity is a form of community, and chastity depends on community. We can’t always choose where we place our roots, but when we can, it’s important to choose well. The ancient monastics took their vows of chastity within a community. Whether or not we realize it, we do as well.


What role does the community have in cultivating chastity in its members?  How can communities do a better job at this?

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