For he who pursues virtue every day is training day. Given that training is precisely what is wanted by he who pursues virtue, he always gets what he wants. Given that the proper response to always getting what one wants, when one does not control the getting, is gratitude, he who pursues virtue has deep gratitude, or at least recognizes the opportunity for training that virtue.
What opportunity for temperance or courage will be given me today? What opportunity for just measure of action toward another?
He who trains knows that he is inadequately stable in his character. This is what makes the training necessary. In some sense he who trains is familiar with error and with failure. But he recognizes that a wrongful response to these features of training would only compound the problem. So, he who trains must have adequate virtuous response to error and failure.
It seems to me that such failure is of two kinds. First, it is the predictable result of temporary influence of bad character. Past choice plus repetition has resulted in a response which under intense focus can be avoided but when distracted by the hubbub of life is embraced momentarily. Knowing one is dealing with this kind of failure is verified by the quickness with which one revolts from the inadequate response, notes the source, repents and moves forward. An analogy is helpful: how would the parent respond to the young child learning to walk? The parent is all encouragement and readiness to try again. Period. Sulking over inadequacies like this are equivalent to sulking over time. Choice plus repetition will suffice for repair, but if one is lamenting the continued influence of bad character, and wants to begin to get a sense of the time needed for repair, a good beginning estimate would involve the calculation of the number of repeated choices that built the bad character in the first place. Justice would demand an expectation that no less time is required of choice and repetition in the opposite direction to adequately rebuild character.
The second failure is more serious and telling. It is an inadequate response that involves choice and planning. To the degree that one in training for virtue intentionally aims in the opposite direction of what he is training for his very claim to be training is suspect. In such moments, given that the one in training is voluntarily moving away from good training by choosing inadequately and in accordance with what he is trying to avoid, he will be tempted to use the same rational faculty to rationalize and attempt an explanation that justifies or at least permits the wrongful and inadequate response. What is happening here is that not only is bad character being permitted but it is being protected by the will and sheltered by the intellect.
Repentance from voluntary and chosen failure and inadequate response is a more serious matter. For one must go back to the moment when one claimed to be in training and call that instantiation of oneself a liar. To be a liar is to be untrustworthy. The tension created is internal divorce or alienation. The existentialists do an excellent job of characterizing such a moment.
These are murky waters. This is often the beginning of a prolonged season of rationalization and suppression of the training desire for any true and meaningful reform. But, to the degree that there is a part of the soul that wants virtue, the murky waters are the most ready and regular opportunity for training in courage and temperance.
It is for me to decide. I can choose to mean what I say, or I can choose to not. I can choose to accept with gratitude the opportunity for training in virtue or I can wish it were otherwise.
Another day begins. Thankful. I swear!