The Imperative to Virtue Gap

As I teach and train about spiritual formation one of the things I talk about a lot is what I call "the imperative to virtue gap."

Specifically, when it comes to spiritual formation we tend to traffic in imperatives: "Do this. Be that." We want people to be more kind so we tell everyone, "Be kind." We want people to stoping stressing out so we say, "Don't worry." We want people to love more and say, "Love others." All we do is push imperatives. Do this. Be that. 

But as you know, when you lack the capacities for a particular virtue--from kindness to staying calm--it's pretty impossible to obey the commands. We're expecting performance where there is no skill. We are demanding results where there has been no practice and training.

This is why spiritual practice, formation, training, and discipline are critical. Virtues are habits we acquire, not choices we make at the point of a command. Trouble is, we tend to get stuck on the commands. We tell people how they should think, feel or behave but never get around to the practices that turn these imperatives into virtues.

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