“Purity of Intention” is a wonderful virtue to look at. In doing so, we need to touch upon its companion virtues, “Truth” and “Humility.” You will see that you cannot have Purity of Intention without being truthful with yourself. Moreover, humility is required, as selfishness is incompatible with this beautiful virtue.
Well, when I first heard of this virtue as a Catholic convert, I
immediately realized I had often failed on this one. Too many times I had worried about how others
thought of me. I attempted to compensate by trying to impress. Sometimes I would compliment a
person, aware of my two intentions of helping the person feel good and the greater intention of my
being liked. As a teenager, I was coached (by other than my parents) about “wowing people” through
fashion, entertaining, and being knowledgeable of the arts and the world. I was even given little
verbal exercises with the goal of impressing others! They included pretend verbal challenges to
master with charm, poise and skill.
These were well meant, in an attempt to prepare me for facing our difficult world, with “leadership potential.” However, what was being shaped was not the real me. Such vanity! Much work to stamp out that vanity since then! I have been attempting to plant humility in its place. The odd thing is that I sensed all along that this vanity just didn’t sit right with me.
I became Catholic in my 40s, was eventually introduced to virtues, and was ultimately faced with this one: Purity of Intention. At first I thought it meant to have one (or one main) intention in some deed – not a mixed set. I saw quickly that the one intention had to be one of goodness – not something bad. But it wasn’t for a few years that I fully understood that the intention needed to “Please God, my Father.” That was a joyful realization for me. It just seemed right.
Next, I figured out I needed to become honest with myself about all of my intentions. I really liked that, but struggled with my own natural tendency to embark on some things too quickly. This has required my proceeding more slowly when I consider choices or plans. (For example, I might start too quickly to send out a group email.) I have found that I often have to take the time to assess my Purity of Intention, among other things. I need to ask myself if any of these are operating: PRIDE (I can do or decide this all by myself) or VANITY (I’m doing this because of concern about what others think) or SENSUALITY (I want to do what I want, when I want and because I want to). Each does interfere at times, and I have to catch them fast, pushing them away like a big bug ready to enter our house!
We usually think of on an individual level when we consider Purity of Intention. Yet, here’s an interesting example of the virtue on a larger scale. In early September, in the United States, we saw an amazing breach of Purity of Intention at the Democratic National (pre-election) Convention. First, as of September 4th, the Democratic Party removed the word “God” from the party’s previous positions. This was a big and sudden change. In other words, the word “God” was removed from their “platform” – their official 2012 election year stance on important topics.
Then on September 5th, “God” was “reinserted.” This had to be done by a 2/3’s majority vote with everyone voting out loud simultaneously. It was very clear (and confirmed by many people) that a 2/3’s majority was not reached for bringing “God” back. However the Convention Chairman saw in his teleprompter that he was to declare that he heard a definite 2/3’s majority (a frank falsehood) and that the word “God” was to be put back in the platform anyway. Perhaps you viewed this.
So we know the decision was based upon a travesty in the determination of the results of the voting process. But I would ask you to consider whether ultimate decision (to bring “God” back) was made because of Purity of Intention? Or might there have been other reasons for doing so?
Though we don’t know the hearts and minds of the people there that evening, God does.
Let’s all focus on virtue of Purity of Intention in our choices, for one week. Try to consider it BEFORE you make your decisions and take your actions. Though you might have a tendency to try to evaluate this virtue in others, resist doing so, and just focus on YOU. You might find interesting surprises. And let’s embark upon it WITH HEARTS OF PLEASING GOD!
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