By Fr. Shay Cullen
LIFE is full of choices, and we need to ask ourselves if the choices and decisions we make everyday are truly good, positive, ethical, and virtuous choices. If you were asked what makes you human, different from the rest of God’s creatures, what would you say? Can you answer right away or are you now trying to list what makes us uniquely truly human persons different from the animals?
If you don’t have the answer right away, you may be short on a very human ability that can enhance and enrich your well being and happiness and that is self awareness and consciousness. This is one of the great attributes of being human; to be very mentally alert and conscious that you are alive and exist and that you are a person of great value.
It seems to be elementary to state that fact but great unhappiness arises in people’s lives because they are unaware of themselves, their potential and their goodness. They think they are even bad, perhaps. They are confused, unaware, semi-conscious of their values attributes and place low value of their own lives and existence. How wrong they are. Growing in self-awareness of our goodness and that we exist must be our priority in life and helping our children and others be the same is essential for a fuller, happier life.
We also have another great gift, the great ability to ask why we exist. That is one of the greatest attributes of being human, that we humans have the ability to reason and think. Not only can we be conscious of ourselves, we can also think about our existence and be aware of our place in the universe. We can look at the great universe with billions of stars, planets, and galaxies and say “I am”. How great it is if we can also say I am happy and grateful that ”I am”. It’s wonderful to be able to rejoice in being alive and well and to know that it is “better to be than not to be”.
Sometimes people do not realize the joy of being alive until they are almost dead. Near death experiences through sickness or accident and disaster can awaken awareness of self and of life. Only when it is nearly taken from us do we truly cherish it and desperately do all in our power to cling on to it. When we survive, we see the world and ourselves in a very different light with greater, sharper self-awareness.
Another great gift of the human person is free will. That’s the ability to make free choices. Unless we are enslaved by other human beings or some form of addiction that has captured our free will, then we can choose what way to live and act. Even when captured by negative forces, we can choose to break free and escape from a negative existence to a happier, free, more meaningful life. Then with freewill, we are free to respond to different realities and challenges before us.
Free choice alone does not make us a true, good, ethical human person. Because many humans make negative choices that are harmful to others, to the planet and are even evil and far from being good, right and just.
This is one way to try and understand and explain evil in the world; some human beings exercise free will in a negative, destructive way. Others are not aware of themselves or of others and much of the world around them. They don’t think or are unconscious about their behavior and choices and are apathetic and indifferent to their own lives and the life of others. But many do choose to be fully human and choose the good and virtuous life.
As part of being fully human, we need to use our ability to know and reason and think about ethical values, to choose the good we have to know it. That’s where the value of learning and education in right and wrong are so important.
Our conscience is an innate value that can tell us what is right and wrong, just and unjust, true and false. Being human has another great unique ability and that is to care for and have compassion and empathy with others who may be total strangers to us. This is that we learn from the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan, love of the stranger in need is the greatest love of all. It is that human ability, a spiritual ability, to have compassion and to help others without pay, reward or seeking love in return or benefits for oneself.
You may want to read more on this. Here, I can recommend an excellent newly published book that gives an inspiring powerful message and a guide for life on how we can live a better, fuller life of happiness by choosing the positive, the good and the green—The Green Platform by Declan Coyle. It is all about choosing how to live a better, happier life, choosing a Green Platform of life. It is available at Amazon.com and Irishbooksdirect.ie bookstores.
The one important value that we need to embrace above all is to know ourselves and affirm that we are basically good and capable of greater good, compassion, love and a happier life. firstname.lastname@example.org , www.preda.org