A: I cannot find anything more boring to do in this world than studying.
B: Why are you bored with it?
A: I have to exert a lot of effort just to get started and when I am at it, I have to exert much more effort to sustain it.
B: What is wrong with exerting effort?
A: Hmmmn. Well, nothing really. I am sure you will tell me again that exerting effort helps build my virtue of fortitude. I don’t think we have to dwell on that again. But I might as well exert effort on doing other things.
B: Like what?
A: Oh, are you trying trap me or something? You seem to be the one asking me questions this time.
B: What’s wrong with asking you questions?
A: Okay, okay… nothing!
B: So where do you want to spend your energies instead?
A: Well, honestly I have not really thought much about that. It’s just that I feel that time is taken away from me when I study.
B: Taken away from what? Do you mean to say that studying is a waste of time?
A: I did not say that.
B: But isn’t that what you mean when you say that you feel like studying takes time away from you? What are the other things you have to do anyway?
A: Well, I meant time for my family and friends.
B: Can you be a little bit more specific? What do you do with your family and friends that seem to be hindered by your studies?
A: I have to spend time with them, you know, chat with them in the Net, update my FB status so they know what I do, tweet them…
B: But don’t they know that you have to be studying? What is there to update?
A: Of course they know that I have to study somehow. But I can always update them on what I do now, the latest music I downloaded from iTunes, the last video I watched in YouTube, the hottest blog in Tumblr and many other similar things, you see.
B: There you have it. You need to be very sincere with yourself. What is the real reason why you feel like studying is a burden, or rather a hindrance—is it really because you want to spend more time with your family, or you want to spend it with your extra-curricular activities?
A: What if I say it’s the first reason?
B: That’s a good excuse but isn’t your family more interested in seeing you fulfill your duty—studying, in this case?
A: Well, yes, actually my parents are more happy to see me studying and they get a bit worried when I spend more time on the internet. Well, I sometimes say that I study using the Net.
B: But you should not lie to them.
A: I actually use the Net to study.
B: All the time?
A: Well, no, that’s why I said “sometimes”.
B: Okay. As you said it, you make them more happy when they see you studying. Why do you think so?
A: Because I get better grades?
B: Perhaps yes. But there might be a deeper reason.
A: Which is?
B: You know, your parents must have already experienced so many things in life by this time. They must have felt the same way about studying when they were your age. Learning from their own personal experience or even perhaps from their friends, it must have become clear to them by now that studying—especially when you have to conquer yourself for it—is a good preparation to face life’s challenges.
B: Well, let me answer first why. There are many things in life that you and I have to face and do, whether we feel like doing them or not. We cannot simply base our decisions on what we feel about them.
A: How is that related to my studies?
B: Studying is one of the things you have to do whether you feel good about it or not. That is why overcoming your dislike for it is a good preparation for facing your other duties in the future.
A: I’m beginning to get the point. Do you know more examples?
B: When you start working, for example, you may have to face unpleasant assignments, irritable colleagues or unforeseen changes in your work schedule that may dampen your initial enthusiasm to work well. You may be experiencing the same now at school—perhaps an unpleasant homework, a boring teacher or extra classes…
A: Oh yes, my Math teacher talks to the board when he solves Algebra problems. We are all bored in his class, you know…
B: Precisely! That may well be a preparation for a similar situation in the future when you have to face an unpleasant boss. I do not say that it is all right for people to be unpleasant. We have to find ways to help them be more amiable. But what I am trying to say is that the world does not revolve around you. There will always be people whom you will find unpleasant or tactless in one way or another. While doing your best to help them, you will always have to ‘exert effort’ to be understanding and patient with them. That is also a way of living charity…
A: Isn’t charity a matter of giving things?
B: That’s part of it. But as St Josemaría said, charity, more than giving, is understanding.
A: Whoa! I never heard charity described that way before.
B: Same with me when I first heard it some years back. And it made me curious about the other things this modern saint had to say.
A: Did he also write about studying?
B: Oh yes, in fact, there is an entire chapter in his classic book, The Way, about study. I was glued to it the first time I saw it. It’s one of the first books I bought outside of what was required in school.
A: What’s your favorite point in the chapter on study?
B: All of them really but if you will insist—as you always do—perhaps this one, point 335: An hour of study, for a modern apostle, is an hour of prayer.
A: What does he mean by that?
B: The way I understood it is that I can serve God through my studies. By studying faithfully, offering it all up to God and your specific intentions like, say, the health of your dad—in pleasant and unpleasant moments—you are giving praise to God like what you do in prayer.
A: That’s cool!
B: Do you now understand that aside from helping you gain virtues like fortitude and diligence and prepare you to meet the challenges of life—that is, helping you acquire maturity by facing up to your duties—you also please God by studying?
A: Perhaps you could explain a bit more what you just said on gaining virtues through studying.
B: Take for example the virtue of diligence. It actually comes from the Latin word diligere which means ‘to love’.
A: Is that right?
B: Yes. And so diligence is not just all about burning the midnight oil. It is first of all about loving what you do—in this case, loving your studies and loving studying itself. When I explained that to my class one day, the best student approached me at the end of class. He told me that he had been studying so hard all those years but he never realized that he had to love what he was doing. He said that learning that was life-changing for him.
A: Oh, that’s quite moving. And the other virtues?
B: You know, virtues grow together like the fingers of your hands. Work on one and the rest will follow. By studying, aside from becoming diligent, you learn to be industrious and strong—working long hours; orderly—knowing which to study first: usually it is better to try the harder thing first, which helps you develop fortitude and focus; charitable and honest—helping your friends who may grasp things more slowly and not making them cheat, because serious study helps you to be more honest and understand better the value of hard work; and so on. The same book explains that making an effort to grow in virtue has an overall effect of goodness on you, in as much as developing vices may stunt your personal growth. Speaking about chastity, for example, the author wrote, “And so it happens that among the chaste are found the finest men in every way. And among the lustful predominate the timid, the selfish, the treacherous and the cruel—characters of little manliness.” Do you get the point more clearly now?
A: Yup, more or less. I better grab a copy of The Way to help me appreciate studying and growing in virtues better. Who knows if another point in that chapter on study may inspire me more…
B: You will surely find one that will inspire you. It has never failed…
A: Oh, I have to get going.
A: I have to study 🙂