True Charity

How often is our intent to be as helpful and charitable as possible to everyone who needs us, so that others may have the peace and help from us that they require?

And how often do we fail at providing this help?

Sometimes we just ignore the call for help altogether. And sometimes we give our help, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.

Often it’s in our core attitude towards what we’re doing. Are we being charitable merely out of obligation? Out of burden? Or are we being charitable out of love for God?

When our answer is the former and not the latter, the true virtue of charity is lacking. Because true charity causes us to love God above all things for His own sake. It’s not about us. It’s about Him.

And there is no greater achievement in a person’s life than to love God above all other things. And when we are charitable for God sake, not our own, it’s only then that charity is in its purest, most virtuous form.

In my past (and sometimes, present) I seek to help others but as soon as things go slightly awry, my act of charity converts into acting out of a burden.

And how often is our ‘charity,’ nothing more than an attempt to gain glory for ourselves? “Look how kind and self-sacrificing I am! I can help everyone and be a wonderful friend! See how incredibly noble I am?”

OK, perhaps I’m exaggerating but this attitude often quietly becomes more and more a part of our general attitude when helping others.

It’s during these times that God is no longer involved so much, because much of why we make sacrifices is more about us than God. And when it’s about us, and not about God, we start to feel more and more burdened and more incapable of taking care of so many things. We cannot carry the load all by ourselves – but we try to do it just the same.

There is no more room for God’s help because we are doing it all by ourselves.

And true charity has no room for our personal likes and dislikes but only for goodness and for doing what is right and for what is needed of us.

Charity is a very holy virtue. One that we must practice, not only during an instance of need but also during every day of our lives. And we must act as unselfishly with other people and situations as possible, for God’s sake. Not our own. Because if we’re doing it for ourselves, we will always fail. Even if we do everything that is needed from us, we will still fail. Perhaps not in the function of what we’re doing to help others but in the reason, the intent, of why we’re doing it. Because we’re doing it for ‘me.’ And if we do things only for ourselves, we’ll often be left feeling mistreated, annoyed and even resentful.

Sure, we act out of charity for the person we’re helping but most importantly we must always act out of charity for God’s sake as much as we are able.

And in this charity, we must be patient, kind, thoughtful, helpful and even long-suffering, just as God has been all of these things and more with us.

One of the effects of the virtue of charity, is that it makes us face our own limitations and defects. True charity makes a person humble – because they have to face the truth about themselves and their failures. Even when it’s very disagreeable – and many times it will be.

I read once that true charity is the shortest path to God. Because it is the fastest way to the perfection of our souls.

The next time someone asks if you can help him or her in their time of need, say Yes.

But this time, not as a matter of what you feel you can give, but because of what is needed of you – for the help of our friends, family and neighbors. And most importantly, for our love of God.

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Alan Scott is a writer and graphic designer residing in Virginia. A former Agnostic, he converted to the Catholic faith in 2004. In 2014 he started his blog, and is the author of The Quest for Virtue, both which focus on growing in holiness, by attempting to live a life more simple and virtuous, a life that is lived for God. When he’s not writing or designing, you’ll find him, hands dirty, in his garden. You can find him on Facebook, too.

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