Our son was in primary school, and it seemed just the time to have him change the flapper in the toilet. I had the job all set up for him, and I was there to give him instructions as needed, but he regarded the task as repulsive. With some gentle prodding he began. A problem arose, and he wanted to quit; but with a little more gentle prodding, he continued. After completing the job, he walked out and said, “I feel good about myself!”
Doing good leads to being good. As the proverb goes, “Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.” In the lives of outstanding human beings, we see the actions and habits or virtues of a noble character which blends virtues of truth, beauty, and goodness. When these virtues are unified they result in a quality of righteousness that attracts others with its fragrant wholeness.
But most of us live far from the heroic level. The great ones may seem so far above us as to make it unrealistic or even depressing to suggest that we grow in the direction of their virtues; but in that case, we would miss out on growth that could be ours. In response we have realistic expectations for ourselves. We accept the natural and gradual way of growth. Growth comes not from character building programs but by self-forgetting engagement with reality.
Truth, beauty, and goodness may be regarded as the on-ramp to love. Love is with us every step of the way. Participating in divine goodness involves love, which comes from God and which we learn to give in return to God and to other persons. As Thomas Aquinas reasoned, love is the crowning virtue in an excellent character. If love is criticized as weak, eroticized, narrowly Christian, or one-sided, these distortions are refuted by lives of truth, beauty, and goodness. Love is the source, sum, and destiny of truth, beauty, and goodness.