NOurishing a person's Innerlife
I wonder if people who buy these top-selling glossy magazines know that they are buying “junk food” for the soul: Food that is not fit for life, that cannot nourish our inner life, that simply harms it and may even cause its “death”. It is clear to us how we nourish and strengthen the life of the body: eat well, sleep well, and exercise well. But how do we nourish the life of the spiritual soul? How do we nourish a spirit? It should be clear from the start that the soul could not be destroyed, unlike the body. It is immortal.
To understand how we should nourish the life of our spiritual and immortal soul, let us make some distinctions between what is given to us, what we do freely, and what we acquire.
Each unique person, male or female, is composed of a physical body and a spiritual soul. This is what we mean when we say that we possess a human nature. Now we must understand that God gives our human nature to us with the cooperation of our parents. None of us was asked permission to be born. Man is born out of an act of love from our parents who gave us our body and an act of love from God who created our personal soul. So it is easy for us to be human. It is a given. And without doing anything, we are human always in our nature. We do not acquire human nature through our efforts.
Then after grasping this basic fact that human nature is given to us through no effort of ours, we then realize, on the other hand, that our actions which constitute a person’s behavior is entirely dependent on our efforts. Behavior is rooted in the self and is freely performed by us. God gave us our nature independent of us. But our actions are such that they depend on us since our human nature is such that God made us free, self-determined beings.
The third element to consider is a consequence of our freely performed actions and these are those perfections that we acquire though our actions. Of course, there are three basic acquired perfections that become part of someone’s personality: his knowledge, his skills and his habits.
It is through this third item that we could speak of a person’s inner life growing and being nourished. We grow in our personalities when we acquire knowledge that helps us to be good. Knowledge in itself does not make us good. But the right kind of knowledge helps us be good. Thus we should plan what we read and what we study, what we watch and what we listen to. To ensure that we are not reading trash for the spirit, or watching movies that encourages our base instincts to go wild, or listen to conversations that lead us to sin.
We also nourish our inner life when we perform actions that are truly valuable leading to the acquisition of useful skills. We want to acquire skills that would help us to be useful to people in a good and constructive way, and not in a harmful and destructive manner. We want to acquire skills that would let us earn a living by serving people in a truly helpful manner.
Please note that our knowledge and skills are acquired through our personal efforts using powers God has given. But what kind of knowledge to acquire and what kind of skills to acquire must be linked with what is truly morally good for man. There is no escaping morality, since God made us creatures by essence capable of a moral life. We cannot define the right kind of knowledge and the right kind of skills without making reference to objective moral norms. This leads us to the third item that constitutes our personalities and nourishes our spiritual life.
This third perfection is our habits, which if directed towards what is morally good in our behavior, are called virtues. We nourish our souls by acquiring virtues or good habits. But please be aware that we could also acquire bad habits, vices, which harm our spiritual life and may lead us to a kind of spiritual death. What to acquire, virtues or vices, is always a matter of choice, our choice. God made us free to make our own free choices.
So we nourish our souls basically through virtues. And our knowledge should facilitate the acquisition of virtues. And our skills united to our knowledge and virtues will help us do a lot of good to a lot of people in our lifetime here on earth.